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It’s easy to get screwed when buying a used car. So it’s essential to make research so that you can find the best deal. You don’t have to become a topic-aware expert, simply go through the stages listed below to prepare yourself and feel confident when buying a used car.

Inspect the car and test drive it

Car inspection is necessary for determining its current condition and highlighting potential problems that could appear after purchase.
When you have the car checked, you’ll either feel more confident about making an investment or you’ll reconsider buying the car by finding hidden flaws. These flaws can also help you knock the price down.

Check the engine light to make sure that it is off when you start the car. The engine has a problem if the light stays on. Besides, look underneath the car to find possible leaks. Perform an easy engine test:

  1. Step on the break and accelerator at the same time.
  2. Hold down the brake, set the car to drive and step on the gas.

A properly maintained engine won’t die. If something happens, the engine has some issues.

Ensure that the odometer gauge is perfectly aligned. It should be without gaps, it also shouldn’t be crooked. Slightly bang on the dash with your hand to check if the odometer jiggles. Some vehicles don’t have new digital readouts, having analog odometers instead. So, if that’s the case, make sure that the numbers are lined up straight. However, new digital odometers are harder to check for some obvious physical signs of tampering. The only thing that will help is an option to disassemble the cluster to see if the odometer has ever been disordered. Another option is to look for service stickers that can be under the hood or inside the door that may tell you the actual mileage. If a mileage correction was done or the odometer has been replaced, you will find a sticker with information about:

  • The car’s last mileage before its replacement.
  • The exact date of installation.
  • Any mileage that was added to the car while the odometer was inoperable.

The owner of a vehicle should also provide you with a manual for maintenance records. Check page numbers and make sure nothing is missing. You should also write down the service data to contact them and validate all data. Tampering with the odometer is done by many sellers since it tells buyers that the car is in better condition and raises its value.

Some used cars have awkward dents, so it’s a must to carefully examine the vehicle and make sure everything is ok. You should also check if body gaps are even, or water will penetrate and corrode the inside of the car. It will also show you that the vehicle has gone through some serious body work. Don’t forget to check the seams and make sure they look like new ones. If something doesn’t look right, always ask why. Your aim here is to find out if the vehicle was damaged or wrecked and if it’s safe to drive it.

When it comes to tires, make sure to check that the depths of the threads are in good condition. Tires can tell you a lot about the current condition of a vehicle. For example, not enough depth indicates that you will have to replace them soon since they’re not going to last long. All tires have 4 digit codes:

  • “1610” would mean that tires were manufactured on the 16th week of 2010.
  • ”0206″ would mean that tires were manufactured on the second week of 2006.

If you see brand new tires on a new car, ask why nobody will replace them without a reason. Don’t forget to check if there is a roadworthy spare tire.

Checking fluids will give you information about prior maintenance of the vehicle. There are some important points that will tell you about the vehicle’s condition by simply checking the fluids:

  • Engine oil fluid can be checked by using a piece of cloth or a dipstick. The car is well-maintained if the fluid has brown or yellow color.
  • Yellow brake fluid shows that everything is ok. It can turn reddish sometimes, that’s also fine.
  • Reddish transmission fluid is what you’re looking for. If you see some crease residue floating, that shows there is a problem.
  • Lime green color of coolant fluid shows the car is properly maintained. To check it, look into the pressurized reservoir.
  • Check if the power steering fluid is red. Any other color indicates there is an issue.
  • Battery should also be checked. Make sure that there is no corrosion, since it can cause a lot of problems during winter. Make sure that the belt and hose are firms, and not brittle or worn. Touch them to see if they will last long or they will start leaking short after purchase.

Start by checking electrical circuits physically. Inspect if anything is not attached properly by following the path to how it was installed. It’s done to check if something is missing or disconnected, you can also find worn out wires. Besides, you should also check if the wires are flowing properly. To inspect it, perform a ground test using a voltmeter or multimeter. Below there are steps that will help you to make the test:

  1. Take the test lead and place it to the battery, check that positive is the place to positive and negative to negative.
  2. Write down the results.
  3. Then see what happens when the negative test lead is removed. Write down the results.
  4. Repeat the test with a running engine.

Compare the results to see if you get more or less the same numbers. If you get a difference of 0.4 volts or more, it’s a sign that there is a grounding problem.

Start inspecting the door locks, windows, sound system and air conditioning. Don’t forget to check signal lights, buttons that control side mirrors, cruise control button, and wiper blades. Everything should operate properly and look nicely. Check out the foam below the back sit for molds and water lines to see if it has ever been flooded. Many shops remove all imperfections outside the car but forget about them on the inside. Bring to the seller’s attention everything that is not functioning properly and have them to reduce the price or fix the problem.
You can also ask a professional to perform the test. If the seller agrees, you can drive the car to a nearby shop where you can have everything checked. You can also go online and find some pre-purchase inspection services. With the help of companies that offer multiple point inspections, you will be sure that you’re getting the best car.

Check the car documents and formalities

If everything is okay with a vehicle, the certificate of title will be held by the lender. Once the balance is paid off, the lender has to transfer it to the purchaser. There are states where the title is sent to the purchaser, but the name of the lender will be written on the title anyway. The only way to release the lien upon full payment is to send a notarized release or complementary documents to the purchaser. For example, the most popular document is the Notice of Security Interest Filling or SIF that assures that the seller has no withholding obligation and that the lien has been completely satisfied. When you can’t get an SIF, a letter from the financier will also be enough.

The car title refers to a legal document confirming that a person or a business is a real thing and the legal owner of the car. That’s the key point to consider when you need to do an ownership transfer and must be checked carefully by the buyer before closing the deal. The car title tells you a lot about a vehicle, including:

  • Basic information about the car: its number, building, year of manufacture and so on.
  • Vehicle registration plate number.
  • Technical information that will tell you about its taxation regimen: motive power, gross weight, and original purchase price and so on.
  • Basic data of the registered owner such as name and address.
  • If there is a lien holder, the title will have the name of a person to whom they are owned.
  • The title also has information if the car is damaged or salvaged.

Always write down the title number and the name on that title so you can check it from the Driver License Check. Don’t forget to take the VIN to ensure that the title is branded. Those details that you got from the title will allow you to perform a background research to find out if the car was junked, stolen or damaged.

Certificate of Registration is an official document that proves a registration of a motor vehicle. Don’t forget to get yourself a copy of it because it’s required to provide the old certificate when you try to register the vehicle as its new owner. Aside from the certificate of registration, you should also submit the receipts of the fees and taxes paid and two license plates.

It’s not a secret that residents and visitors of the States should pay taxes imposed on them. The same rule goes for used vehicles. The seller has to pay taxes that pass to the buyer. Don’t throw the receipt away; it will act as a proof that you have paid everything. It’s also a must when you want to register the vehicle.

Don’t Forget About The Money

There are numerous factors that affect the vehicle’s price, but the most important are:

  • Year of manufacture
  • The Company name that makes the vehicle
  • Model
  • Mileage
  • Current condition
  • Equipment

Insurance rates vary dramatically from one insurance company to another. Before making a purchase, estimate insurance rates for each car you want to buy, just to know all costs, and be prepared to pay them. So, when you have all insurance estimates, remove those that you can’t handle. However, it’s also not advised to simply choose the cheapest option. Some companies with higher rates also add interesting features that would be of some use for you and are worth that extra cash. There are services like that allow you to compare different insurance policies. Just remember: comparing the rates should be a number one task before you make your final decision. And keep in mind that the rate you see quoted isn’t the only thing to consider. Sometimes the more you pay, the more value you get for your money and some companies can offer discounts and bonuses for insurances with higher rates. So, check out as many quotes as possible before purchasing a car to make sure you get the best out of your money.

When you have money, you can choose the best car with the best price. Always negotiate questions like a cash buyer since you already have the money and the price can be at your command.

  • Know your credit score, you can check it via the official federal site
  • Always carefully calculate the monthly payments that you can make.
  • Get pre-approved for a car loan from a bank and compare different services
  • You can also use services like Loan Amount Calculator to see what your loan amount would be given a specific interest rate and payment.
  • If you know a loan amount, calculate your monthly payment via payment calculator.
  • There are also interest-only loan calculators like Interest Only Loan Calculator that helps you figure out monthly payments if you are planning on taking out an interest-only loan.

Get A Vehicle History Report

Getting a vehicle history report will ensure that you’re not going to buy a lemon and that you’re not defrauded by a seller. The report contains all important information about the car’s past. The report will show records from the Department of Motor Vehicles of each state, along with insurance loss records, accident records and salvage. This data is crucial for customers when choosing a used car to buy, as it shows issues concerning car’s real value and safety.
Get yourself a complete vehicle history report - allows you to get a vehicle history reports by simply entering the VIN number.

Download Used Car Buying Checklist