Buying a used vehicle, is a significant investment. If you are in the market for a used vehicle, and you live in Spokane, Washington, you may be able to find a good value and reliable car here. There are several things you should do, and be aware of before you make any purchase. You will need to consider the source of the sale, the condition of the vehicle, the fair market value of the vehicle, the mileage, and its history.
Where To Start Searching For A Used Car?
There are several sources you will look at when shopping for a used car; you will look at private sales, car dealerships and possibly online/offline auctions. Locally here in Spokane, we have a few publications like Drive Line and Wheel Deals where you can find a reliable used car. The other popular place to look is spokane.craigslist.com/i/autos/. Many cars and other merchandise exchanges hands there and it works very well for people in Spokane. Our city is filled with used car dealerships too, which should be kept as your second option.
Risks In Buying Used Cars
There are risks and benefits to each source. You will have to weigh the totality of the situation and make the best decision possible by being the best informed.
When buying from an individual you may have the ability to ask how the vehicle was driven, any problems with the vehicle, and if they have any maintenance receipts. You as the buyer will have to make a decision whether a person is trustworthy.
Purchasing a used vehicle from a dealership has its distinct advantages and risks as well. Usually a dealership will offer some limited warranty on the vehicle; some dealerships will also allow you to purchase extended warranties at a premium. The risks involved include; not having a definite history on the vehicle, and a limited warranty may be too short before problems are apparent.
A final source for a used vehicle, and probably the one with the most risks are auctions. You may get the best deal financially on a vehicle, but there is usually little to no warranties or guarantees.
Do Your Homework Before Buying
If you have a particular make and model in mind, it is best to do your homework before you set out to make a deal. There are many websites that can give you detailed values, recommendations, the overall reliability, and value on a particular car. Researching your vehicle will give you the power of information. You will be aware of recalls and common problems associated with the vehicle. It will arm you with knowledge, and enable you to ask educated questions about the maintenance and issues associated with that specific car.
Finally, after deciding on the source of where you want to buy, the vehicle, the make, model and year of vehicle you are interested in, it comes time to visit the potential vehicle.
Checking Over The Car
Your first observation will give you the overall condition of the car. There are many clues you can gain from just looking at a car. Fresh paint, particularly on only one part of the vehicle can show that it was recently in an accident. If you are diligent you can look at each of the body panels and check to see if there are unusual gaps, another sign that the vehicle was previously damaged. A car that has spent many miles on the highway will often have dings on the front hood, inversely you can always tell a city vehicle by the holes in the bumper from people trying to Parallel Park.
Take a look at the tires; make sure the tread is worn equally. Uneven tread may indicate suspension problems and at the least it may need proper alignment.
Take a look at the undercarriage; look for damage and excessive rust. Open each door, including the trunk and hood. Pay attention to the in-between spaces, look for different colors or paint over-spray, another indication of body repair. Look for water damage inside the vehicle and in the trunk. Excessive wear on interior items can show how much the vehicle was used, for example look at the wear on the brake pedal and shifter. Significant wear should alert you to high usage. Average mileage on the vehicle should be somewhere around 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year. Mileage higher than that would show a high usage vehicle. Mileage significantly less would indicate an underused vehicle. Do not assume a severely underused vehicle is immediately a good buy. If a vehicle sat too long, unused, it may problems with dried seals that will only become apparent once you start driving it.
Once you have gone over the body and suspension it is time to look at the drive train. Begin by looking under the vehicle for wet fluid on the pavement. Find out if this is where the vehicle is usually parked.
When looking at the engine, start with the engine compartment. Look for excessive blowback from fluids on the firewall. Look at all of the fluids. You should be able to identify the engine oil dipstick, the transmission dipstick (if it is automatic), the brake fluid and the coolant. Learn what oil in the radiator fluid means and how to detect it. Learn what burnt oil smells like and what problems you will have when found. Look around the engine block and under the valve covers for wet areas or oil saturated metal and hoses. Check the condition of hoses and belts; cracked or dry-rotted hoses will need to be replaced. Look at the transmission to see if there are wet spots or actively dripping fluid. Finally, check the rear axle for wetness and discoloration.
If the engine compartment has recently been clean, you will have to consider the source, determine if it was cleaned genuinely or if it was an attempt to hide any leaks or potential problems.
Often, if you do not want to check the vehicle yourself, you can ask if they will allow you to take the vehicle to a mechanic for an evaluation. If they refuse, it maybe cause enough to look elsewhere. For a modest fee, a mechanic will do a complete pre-purchase check.
Of course, there are also online services that can check the VIN number of the vehicle and run it against insurance databases to see if it was in a reported accident.
Buying a used vehicle is not a scary proposition if you go in educated and aware. You can find good values on used vehicles that are dependable and full of life.