10 Point Checklist for Buying a Used Car

Used BMW For Sale Philadelphia, PA

By virtually every metric, a quality used car is a better deal than a brand new one. Not only is the price lower, but the insurance costs and other associated carrying costs can be much lower as well. Simply freeing up the money you would have otherwise spent on a car payment can give you a real jump start on your finances, and those savings will continue to accrue month after month.

The most significant downside of buying a used car, of course, is the risk of getting a lemon.

  • How can you know that the car you are looking for is not harboring some hidden problem?
  • How do you know you are getting a great deal and not being taken for a ride?

Here is a 10 point checklist you can use to evaluate and examine a used car purchase.

  1. Ask the seller for the vehicle identification number, or VIN. You can use that VIN to order a vehicle history report, uncovering things like past accidents, flood damage and so on.
  2. Start the car and listen to it run. The engine should idle smoothly, with no lurches are sudden drop-outs. When you step on the accelerator, the engine should rev smoothly and evenly.
  3. Move the vehicle from where it had been parked, then go back and look at the spot under the car. Look for signs of fluid leaks, including dried oil spots or stains that could indicate a transmission fluid leak.
  4. Check the fluid levels on the vehicle, including the oil and transmission. Note the levels, then recheck them after your test drive.
  5. Test all the electronics and auxiliary systems on the vehicle, from the radio and sound system to the windshield wipers and headlight. Note how they function and look for any potential problems.
  6. Examine the tread wear pattern on the tires, looking for signs of uneven wear. If the tires are wearing unevenly, it could indicate an alignment problem.
  7. Drive the vehicle slowly, listening to the sound of the engine and checking the performance. Acceleration should be steady and smooth, and the vehicle should feel under control at all times.
  8. Find a deserted stretch of road and execute a fast stop at a stop sign. The vehicle should stop quickly, with no pulling to one side or the other.
  9. Keep a close eye on the gauges as you drive. Watch for any warning lights or other indicators. Check the temperature gauge to make sure the vehicle is operating within the proper parameters.
  10. Park the car on level ground, then pull out the transmission fluid dipstick. Smell the stick and the fluid – a burnt smell or discoloration could indicate a looming transmission problem. Check the engine oil as well, looking for metal flecks in the oil or a burning smell.

Following the 10 point checklist outlined above will not guarantee that you get a trouble-free used car, but it will help you ferret out many of the most common problems. Buying a quality used car instead of a brand new one could save you thousands of dollars, but only if you know what to look for and how to sort out a great deal from a bad one.

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