Buying used can be a great way to save money when purchasing your next vehicle.  However, opting for a used car can actually cost you more if you make one of these five common mistakes:

  1. YOU DON’T RESEARCH THE SELLER. You should never purchase a vehicle from a seller you don’t trust. While the internet is not perfect, you can learn a lot about a seller by doing a little research. Google, Yelp, BBB, and many listing sites have dealer ratings and review pages. Check out the dealer before you walk in the door. These reviews will help you to identify red flags before you buy them. Don’t be the next person to write a 1-star review! For more information on how to find a good dealer, check out our related article, “Characteristics of a Reputable Used Car Dealer.”
  2. YOU DON’T RESEARCH THE VEHICLE. Some cars a great new, but they don’t age well. Some makes and models are prone to develop certain mechanical problems over time. Keep an eye out for those potential issues or avoid them altogether and opt for vehicles that have good reputations for holding up well at high mileages.
  3. YOU DON’T GET A VEHICLE HISTORY REPORT. When purchasing a used vehicle, you should always get a vehicle history report. Reports from companies like CarFax and AutoCheck can provide the following information:
    • Was this vehicle reported to be in an accident or flooded?
    • Has the odometer been tampered with?
    • Reported service records.
    • Was the vehicle used in a rental pool or fleet?
    • Reported service records.
    • The number of prior owners.

    These kinds of things could affect the current condition of the vehicle, and they definitely impact the price! For more information on vehicles with environmental damage, check out our related article, “Flood & Environmentally Damaged Vehicles.”

  4. YOU DON’T GET A THOROUGH MECHANICAL INSPECTION.  Vehicle history reports are not 100% accurate because not everything gets reported properly.  Even if they were 100% accurate, vehicle histories are not enough.  You need to know the current condition of the car!
    • Is the vehicle leaking fluids?
    • Is the water pump functioning properly?
    • Are the brake pads low?
    • Are the battery and cables in good condition?
    • Does the car need new tires?
    • Are the alternator and charging system functioning properly?

    A vehicle history report won’t answer these questions. A thorough inspection by a mechanic will! To perform a thorough inspection, a mechanic needs to test drive and lift the vehicle. Do not settle for an inspection completed by the dealership or seller’s own mechanic – they have an incentive to not disclose things. You need an independent inspector to check out the vehicle for you. That is the only way to ensure the report you get is unbiased. Make sure that you get a copy of the report. Better yet, get a report that is available online with photographic documentation of the inspection! Check out our related articles “The Importance of a Pre-Purchase Car Inspection” and “The Importance of a Test Drive.

  5. YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE VEHICLE TOO SOON. No matter how nice and friendly they may be, used car sales representatives are trained to do one thing: sell you a vehicle. If you fall in love with a vehicle before you purchase it, and the seller knows it, you are unlikely to get the best possible deal. You are also less likely to heed potential red flags that arise from the inspection and history reports. Keeping your emotions under control will help you make a good decision and negotiate the best deal.

Buying a used car can be exciting! It can also be nerve-racking! While risk can never be completely eliminated from a used vehicle purchase, there are things you can do to reduce the chance of getting stuck in a vehicle with hidden problems. Remember to do your homework. Research the seller and the car. Check out the car history and current condition. And don’t fall in love with the vehicle too soon. Follow these five steps and you’ll end up with a great car at a great price!