How do I choose a secondhand car?

I'm looking to buy a used car for my family, but I'm worried about getting ripped off. How can I be sure that the car I'm buying is safe and a good deal?

“There are certainly risks that come with buying a used car, so it’s good that you’re doing your homework first. Before you make the leap and buy the car, research its value, look the interior and exterior over thoroughly, and take it for a spin.
Assess the market value: You’ll want to make sure you know what the car is worth before you hand over your money. The first step in this process is to look up the market value of the car.
Generally, the Kelley Blue Book is a trusted source for evaluating whether or not the vehicle you’re considering is appropriately priced. For the most accurate assessment, you’ll need to know the make, model, year, mileage, and condition of the car you’re looking to buy, as well as any features that could increase or decrease its value.
Inspect the car: This goes along with the point above. Make sure the car is in good condition, inside and out. Don’t forget the engine, either; if the engine is dirty, the car may have been poorly maintained. Check for oil spills, cracks, or any other damage to the engine to avoid paying more than you bargained for in repairs.
Check the car for any weird smells, too. Is the owner a smoker? Has the back of the SUV been home to a wet dog or two? Your nose could help you detect more serious problems, as well. If you smell burning oil or gas, that may be a sign of an engine problem.
Be sure the car is comfortable for you and for your family. If you have any pets, make sure there’s adequate room if you plan to take them on car rides.
Go on a test drive: You’ll want to take the test drive seriously in a used car. Does the sound system work? Are the amenities (like steering or window controls) working as you expected? Are there any glaring warning lights that you hadn’t been made aware of?
If you notice any flaws in the car that you didn’t expect, you’ll want to renegotiate. Test drives give you the chance to be sure that a car handles like you expect it to. It also is meant to ensure that the brakes are functional, the car shifts smoothly, and there isn’t any unexpected or colorful smoke coming from the exhaust pipe.
Visit a mechanic: In some cases, you’ll be able to get a pre-purchase inspection from a mechanic. You may have to pay an associated fee, but it’ll be worth it to know that the car is functioning as it should.
Check your insurance policy: When you buy a new car, you need to update your insurance. The Jerry app can help you figure out if you’re paying more than you should for your policy and provide you with competitive quotes from top name-brand providers—for free.”
Liz Jenson
Answered on Sep 21, 2021

Did this answer help you?

Ask us a question by email and we will respond within a few days.

Have a different question?

You can meet us at our office and discuss the details of your question.