What To Look For When Buying a Used or Pre-Owned Car
Buying a pre-owned car doesn’t have to be a gamble, but it often feels like it is. This is because many cars, trucks, and SUVs sold by private party sellers aren’t always up to your standards. This isn’t to say that your standards are too demanding—in fact, most used car shoppers are right to be wary of cars they encounter online. It’s just that your average private seller isn’t a car expert and they might not know what problems are lurking under the hood. You might have to go to a reputable dealership to find a quality used car.
Even if you are lucky enough to visit a dealership you trust, there are some precautions that you should take to ensure you get a car that will work for you. We’ve sold enough pre-owned cars to know there are a few key considerations when looking to get the biggest bang for your buck out of a used car purchase.
Used Car Buying Considerations to Keep in Mind
1. Look for a pre-owned car that holds its value, or one that is listed for a nice price.
This will require doing a little bit of research on used cars. The research doesn’t need to be super in-depth, but looking at used car prices on resale sites or from Kelley Blue Book will help you determine what a fair price might be for the types of cars you are interested in. It will also guide you to make good choices for the future. Having basic knowledge of how much a pre-owned car is worth can help you find the best deal when it comes time to go on a few test drives.
If you’re looking for a pre-owned vehicle that holds its value so you can get some of your money back when you upgrade again, consider buying a model with a considerable fanbase—like a Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, or Ford F-150—or lower inventory due to discontinuation of the model—like a Ford Fusion or Acura RDX. Vehicles like trucks and SUVs tend to hold their value better over time than economy cars, for example.
That doesn’t mean you should never consider a vehicle with higher depreciation. In fact, compact cars can help you save a bundle on gas, and their purchase prices are often easier on your wallet! Zeck Ford in Purcell has an extensive inventory of pre-owned vehicles that meet the needs and preferences of essentially any car buyer.
2. Look for signs of damage – and avoid used cars that show signs of damage.
Everyone has heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That’s actually terrible advice when it comes to buying a pre-owned car or truck!
Cars with rough exteriors and interiors usually haven’t received the most loving treatment or careful maintenance. If you can see dents, scratches, or interior stains when looking at a car, make sure to ask about it. It could mean the difference between getting a car that will last you for a long time and getting a car that might end up in your mechanic’s shop more frequently.
3. Use the VIN to your advantage.
The Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, is a unique serial number given to all cars in their factories. It is usually located on the interior dashboard of the vehicle, near the seam of the windshield. The VIN can be a car buyer or seller’s best friend, especially when it comes to legal matters.
- Match the VIN up to the registration document you’re handed. By doing this, you are not only verifying the vehicle’s history, but you are also ensuring you stay out of legal trouble. Generally, you should not have to do this at a reputable dealership, but it’s a good idea to guarantee there was no human error in mixing up documents. However, this is a must-do step if you are purchasing from a private seller.
- Use the VIN to do a free vehicle history report. Using CarFax or a similar site will help you see whether the car has been in any accidents the seller doesn’t know about, and will also help you verify whether you should trust the seller. The report can also contain information on when regular maintenance was performed and how many people owned the car before you.
4. Consider the total price of the used car rather than just the monthly payment price.
Used car shoppers are often looking for a deal—and who can blame them? But too often, used car shoppers use one number, in particular, to help them determine whether they are getting a deal or not. That number is the monthly payment price.
Rather than being drawn in by the monthly payment price, consider instead how much you will be saving over the long term. Start your car shopping search by budgeting, and then decide whether or not you can afford to make a more significant monthly payment, a bigger down payment, or whether you will have to stick with the monthly payment price. If you must buy based on how much you can pay each month, that is fine. Just understand that the more you pay off your car loan sooner, the more money you will save in interest.
At Zeck Ford, we offer financing options for Moore or Norman residents looking to buy one of our pre-owned vehicles from our vast inventory. We can help you find a car loan to pay for your new-to-you vehicle that fits your budget, whether that’s the full purchase price or a monthly payment.
5. Take a look at the tires.
Your used car doesn’t need to have brand-new tires for it to be considered for purchase. However, the tread wear on the tires could be indicative of something else wrong with the car—potentially even something big.
Regular tread wear will be consistent all over the tire, causing even wear. Irregular wear could mean that the tires are out of alignment (intense wear on one side), have been improperly inflated (extreme wear on the middle, in the case of overinflation, or severe wear on the outsides of the tread, in the case of underinflation). Uneven wear patterns also can indicate mechanical troubles down the road, or ones that have been ignored for some time.
If you see tread wear and are unsure what it might mean, you can take the car for a second opinion. A trusted mechanic will be able to tell you what is causing the wear and give you a repair estimate. From that estimate, you will be able to determine whether the used car is worth it or not.
Are you looking for a car dealership with a good reputation and an extensive inventory of used and pre-owned vehicles? Zeck Ford in Oklahoma City has you covered. Click here to browse our many used cars. If you find one you like, stop by a test drive, and we’ll talk more about how we can get you a good deal with our no-haggle pricing guarantee.