You may have heard it before: it’s better to buy a good used car than brand-new. The problem with used car shopping is that it sometimes feels like a crapshoot. You never know the real condition of a car until you see it in person. And even though the Internet has made it so much easier for buyers to find and connect with sellers, work and research is necessary to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
It helps to have a checklist of the things you need to do and read before closing the deal on a used vehicle. These are two things you should do before buying a pre-owned car.
Research reliability and ownership costs
Remember to account for potential maintenance and repair costs when considering a used car. Some makes and models are simply more dependent than others. J.D. Power vehicle dependability rankings and Consumer Reports. These are invaluable resources for finding out whether that hot rod that’s going for cheap will cost you an arm and a leg in repairs a few months down the line.
Websites like Kelley Blue Book and Consumer Reports also provide ownership cost estimates for different vehicles. These summaries include breakdowns of how much you could wind up spending on insurance, repairs, and maintenance over the next few years.
Check its vehicle history report
If you can afford it, run a vehicle history report on any car you’re looking to buy. You want to know if the vehicle has ever been involved in a serious accident. Things like fires, accidents, and floods will show up on the report.
Keep a lookout for any car with the “salvage” title attached to it. That means it’s been in a serious accident and repaired to make it drivable. Keep in mind, just because something is drivable doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden issues with the car. It’s best to avoid salvaged cars entirely.
A vehicle history report can cost anywhere from $25 to $40. An experienced seller may include their vehicle’s history report in their classified ad.