Before you buy: What to check in a used car

January 5, 2015 05:31 PM
Are you considering shopping for a used car? If the answer is yes, then there's a good chance you're going to feel overwhelmed by the number of choices and details you have to take into consideration throughout the process. This is difficult for anyone, but that's not an excuse to make some poor decisions because you didn't do your research. Although there are many aspects of a car you must keep in mind, some can be overlooked. Make sure you're giving these five factors the attention they deserve. Odors  At first glance - or sniff - the odors in a car may be more of a superficial problem than anything else. However, Consumer Reports acknowledged that any strange smells on the inside of a car may be a sign of other issues. If there's a scent reminiscent of mold or mildew, for instance, it might indicate that there was a leak or water damage in the past. The site also reported that an acrid smell could be a sign that the vehicle was once owned by a smoker. That may not impact the driving performance, but the odor is tough to remove, so you have to be OK with sniffing it in the future. Maintenance costs During your time as an owner, you're going to have to deal with everything from scheduled maintenance to surprise auto repair. Don't be blindsided by high replacement costs or labor expenses. Instead, take a look at the average price of this work or how certain manufacturers stack up against each other. This may help you determine what investment will save you the most money in the long term. Online reviews and complaints There's a good chance you're using the Internet to do some research about a prospective car. Money Talks News noted that there are many ways drivers can learn about common vehicle issues before even stepping on a car lot. It starts with basic research. Check out what professionals have to say about certain makes and models. Expert websites will usually have hard data and test drives to back up their opinions, and they may provide insight that you wouldn't get otherwise. Once you get through these high-level opinions, look at what other drivers have praised or complained about. Forums will have first-person accounts of problems, and although it's hard to verify these complaints, they at least provide a baseline for prospective buyers. Sound system and entertainment While it may seem like an extra perk, the entertainment system found in a car actually carries a lot of weight. Take the time to make sure the whole system is working smoothly - and if it's not, be sure to get an explanation. This won't take too much time: Start by checking reception for AM and FM radio stations, then move to testing CD players or MP3 connectivity. Any issues may be fixed with easy car repair, but check with the seller to see if you can get this remedied before the final purchase. Monthly expenses Your budget is going to involve more than just the sticker price of a vehicle. You've also got to account for fuel expenses, car insurance, auto loans and vehicle maintenance. Estimate what these costs will be using the averages you find during the research stage. Different models will have varying insurance premiums and fuel efficiency, so it's important to crunch the numbers to see what you'll end up paying if you buy. If you come across any special promotions, rebates or incentives, don't automatically assume this is money in your pocket. Instead, leave this in an emergency fund that can cover repairs or fees that weren't originally accounted for.
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