Used Car Buying Guide
Updated: Apr 28
So you’re looking to buy a used car? If it is your first time, or even if it isn’t, there are a number of things you should inspect before handing your money over to the current owner. As a Maryland auto mechanic, we’ve seen a variety of issues with used cars, here’s a quick used car buying guide to help you avoid some of the worst.
Can You Afford the Car?
Of course everyone would love to be driving around in a BMW or Mercedes, but not everyone can afford it. The purpose of getting a used car is to get a discount on the original price. With that being said, you most likely don’t want a large car payment, if one at all.
If you do decide to go with a car payment, a good rule of thumb is make sure it is no more than 20% of your take-home pay. And even that is on the higher end. With a used car, you most likely will need to have maintenance done on the car more often—and that costs money. Be sure to keep an extra side fund for repairs.
What is the Car’s History?
Once you’ve found a car which fits your budget, try to figure out why it is up for sale. The best way to do this is through the VIN number (located behind the front windshield or on the inside of the door). Using VIN lookup sites such as Carfax or AutoCheck can reveal a lot about a car.
Things to look for are the number of previous owners (many owners could indicate a major issue), if it has a salvaged title (when the insurance company deems it a total loss after some sort of damage), or if the odometer has been rolled back. Seeing any of these signs raise red flags all across the board. If you see these issues, seriously reconsider your desire for the vehicle.
Test Drive the Car
A car can be as beautiful as a rose with a clean slate like a plate after Thanksgiving, but the drive is what is really important. If you get in the car and it doesn’t feel right, it is not worth your money. A couple of key factors to look at are:
Is their enough legroom, headroom, and hip room?
How are the brakes? Are they responsive and effective?
Do the headlights, turn signals, air conditioning, etc. work?
How is the visibility? Are there any major blind-spots?
Visually Inspect the Vehicle
Look for obvious signs of dents, or scratches. While these may not deter you from purchasing the vehicle, they can be bargaining chips to obtain a lower price. Additionally, look for burns in the upholstery or scratches in the leather.
Another aspect to have a look at will be the under-side of the vehicle. Rust is major factor here in Maryland because we use road salt during the winter among other reasons. Rust is a sign of deterioration on the vehicle and rusted areas could fall apart within a week or it could take many years.
Get a Mechanic to Inspect it
Maryland mechanics like those at Hillmuth Auto Care can find small issues on your future vehicle you may miss when just looking at the car. By bringing your vehicle into your local, trusted auto mechanic you will rest assured you’ve had a true assessment of your vehicle.
For more information on pre-purchase inspections, or to have your used vehicle inspected before you buy it, get in touch with your local Hillmuth Auto Care, today!