Steve Rettew from Suburban Auto Sales in Atglen, Pennsylvania has an eye for buying used cars. He attends auctions every week looking for the perfect car that he can resell. Here are his ten tips to use when buying a “new” used car:
1. SHOW ME THE CARFAX
Every CARFAX Report contains important information that can sway your decision about a used vehicle. When you’re looking at a used car, be sure to get the VIN number and mileage. Run these through CARFAX to get a detailed check to see if the car has ever been in any accidents, has any recalls, and other information that will help you make an informed decision. A CARFAX report will even tell you how many owners the car has had.
2. LOOK UP, DOWN, AND ALL-AROUND
Take a walk around the car and look carefully for rust, scratches, dents, and any other problems or imperfections. Get under the car. Literally get on your hands and knees and go under the car. Look for rust on the undercarriage or anything that looks like it might have previously been fixed. These can all be signs of a repair from after an accident.
3. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINE
Start the car and look at the engine while it’s running. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, use your ears. Make sure there are no unusual noises coming from the engine that may indicate a problem. Also, follow your nose for any suspect odors. If you are smell gas, oil, antifreeze or other chemical smells, that could indicate a leak––eek!
It seems simple to take a car for a test drive, but before you buy that used car, you need to do more than just take a joy ride. On your test drive, you should turn on the heat and air conditioner to confirm that both work. Turn the radio on and change the station and also run the power windows up and down to verify there are no issues. If there are any other nifty gadgets in the car, you need to try them all out. You’d rather know before you buy that something doesn’t work properly.
Steve Rettew, Photo by Blair Caldwell
5. FOLLOW YOUR NOSE
While inside, take a big whiff. By smelling the inside, you can tell if the previous owner was a smoker or brought animals into the vehicle. Also, smell for mold. If the car smells moldy, it could mean that there is (or was) a leak from the sunroof or one of the windows, or worse yet, the car could have been involved in a flood.
6. GET COMFORTABLE
During your test drive, make yourself comfortable. Adjust the mirrors and seat to your preference and relax while you drive the car. This will help you determine if the car is adequate for your body shape and size.
7. STOP, COLLABORATE, AND LISTEN
Sounds coming out of the car can tell a lot about the shape the car is in. Turn the radio off while test driving and really listen to the car. If you hear rattles, ticking, banging, grinding, etc., that could indicate a problem.
Steve Rettew, Photo by Blair Caldwell
8. JUNK IN THE TRUNK
Open up the trunk and check for water. If you smell or feel dampness, there could be a leak in the trunk. Also, check to make sure that the spare tire is there as well as the jack that came with the car. Some cars come with a wheel lock and key that is needed to change the tire. If you do not have the wheel lock key, you certainly don’t want to find this out on the side of the road after you realize you have a flat tire.
9. GET CLICK HAPPY
Click the car fob to lock and unlock the door multiple times. Test out all of the keys you are given to see if they work. It is very costly to get a fob created for a vehicle lock, so if the seller does not have the original fob or it’s broken, this could be an issue for you.
10. CHECK YOUR INSURANCE
Call your insurance company before buying the car. Different types of cars cost different amounts to insure. An SUV will have a higher insurance rate than a sedan, while two-door cars are often higher to insure than four-door cars. It’s best to call your insurance company before making the decision on your “new” used car so that there are no surprise expenses after your purchase is complete.
Buying a car can be a lot of fun, but it can also bring about a lot of stress. With these ten simple tips, you can make an informed decision during the car-buying process and ride off into the sunset with the “new” car of your dreams.