What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

| By: Christian Brothers Automotive
  1. Do your research: Before you go for a test drive and fall in love with that new ride, do your homework on the vehicle you are considering. Look at user reviews, safety reviews and awards given for the car you have in mind. Find a car that is safe and dependable.
    • Make sure to check the make, year and model of your desired vehicle. It’s also helpful to do a price comparison on various websites and vehicle sales sites. Determine what the car is worth and what other buyers have paid for the same model. Shop around so that you can get the best price on a lower mileage car.
  2. Don’t pay sticker price: A used car price is always negotiable. Used car dealers often acquire cars through trade-ins and by offering far below the car’s value. Doing your research before meeting with the dealer can tell you what a fair price is for your vehicle. It’s also important to look at more than one vehicle from more than one seller before committing to a purchase.
  3. Get a pre-purchase inspection: Bringing your car to Christian Brothers Automotive for a pre-purchase inspection will give you peace of mind and value-assurance in your purchase. Christian Brothers Automotive can assist you in deciding on the right used car to purchase, with our thorough pre-purchase inspection. We can also offer insight into typical make/model/mileage repairs based on the current mileage of the car.
  4. BUYING TIP: When buying from a dealership, or a sole-owner, a pre-purchase inspection could lower the asking price by making the dealer aware of any maintenance issues neglected by the previous owner. Christian Brothers Automotive can provide you with a written estimate that you can use as a price negotiation tool.
  5. While many impending maintenance and repair issues can be caught with a test drive and a visual inspection, some cannot be seen without a thorough examination by a trained technician. Christian Brothers Automotive has a complete check-list of what to look for in a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. We will let you know what issues we detect, so that they can be handled up-front, or by the previous owner. Here are a few of the things we will check for you:
    • Inspect for damage: Look for any signs of damage or rust spots. These are cause for concern. Signs of welding and tape residue could indicate a part has been broken and replaced.
    • Check the mileage: The mileage is an indication of the car’s age. A normal driver will put an average of 12,000 miles on a car each year. If the car has fewer than 100,000 miles on it, some of the original manufacturer warranties may still apply.
  6. While the mileage is an important factor, you also need to be mindful of the amount of maintenance and service put on the car. A car that has a lot of mileage but was properly maintained will serve you better in the long run than a car with a few miles that was not regularly serviced.
    • Check for leaks: Before the test drive, turn on the car and let it idle for 1 minute. Move the car and look to see if any fluid was left behind, under the car.
  7. If there is black, green or pink fluid, this is a sign of trouble. Black fluid might be oil, green fluid is typically anti-freeze and pink or red fluid may indicate a transmission leak.
    • Examine the engine: If there is a problem with the engine, you can be sure a repair will be needed in the future. Inspect for any corrosion or signs of leakage. Dark brown stains or dried fluid could mean a leak in the gasket or one of the hoses.
  8. Check around the brake fluid reservoir, the oil filler cap and the transmission. Pull out the transmission dipstick and check the coolant in the overflow jar. If the transmission fluid is not pink or red, or the coolant is dirty brown, it means the fluids have not been recently changed. If the fluid levels are low, the car has not been properly maintained.
  9. While looking in the engine, be sure to check all hoses and belts. Squeeze the hoses to check for rigidity. They should be firm but flexible and not show any signs of leaks or swelling. The belts should not have any cracks, tears or frays.
    • Check the AC: Turn on the air conditioning to make sure it works and cools off in a timely manner. A broken AC system may be leaking refrigerant, which could wear away at other parts of the engine. The AC system is also a vital part of defogging widows during the rainy and snowy seasons.
    • Check all lights: Turn on all lights to make sure there are no burnt-out bulbs or electrical issues. If more than one light does not turn on, it could signal a problem with the car’s electrical system.
    • Check the Tires: The tires will be your indicator of the previous owner’s driving habits. Check that the tires all match each other and show even wear along the tire’s sides. It’s a good idea to check the spare too!
  10. Check the tire tread to determine whether the tires will need replacing any time soon.
    • Take a test drive: The test drive will give you a good idea of how the car handles, as well as any potential maintenance problems. Pay attention to any sounds or noises the engine or brakes make during acceleration and stopping. Bring the car up to about 50 miles per hour (MPH) and then come to a steady stop. Check for any grinding, squealing, pulsing or trepidation.
  11. Check the service history: Ask for any service records or about any needed repairs, as well as routine maintenance needs. If the car has been through any accidents, it’s important to be aware of how the car was repaired and maintained afterwards.

Do your homework and thoroughly inspect the vehicle before buying. By following Christian Brothers Automotive steps to buying a used car, and getting a pre-purchase inspection, you could be driving off in a vehicle that will last for years to come, and be a great return on your investment!

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