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Things to Look for When Buying a Used Vehicle9/30/2022

Buying a used car or truck can be a great option when you're looking for a quality vehicle without a higher price tag. However, you will still need to make the right choices. Here are some smart ways to help you choose the best car.

RESEARCH THE VEHICLE HISTORY

A car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) can reveal a lot. Checking the VIN through a paid service like CARFAX can tell you about an accident, if there are any liens on the car, and/or if any recalls on the model have occurred.

You can also get a vehicle history report from CARFAX by entering the license plate number, which allows you to see title problems, ownership history, and service history. If you're buying through a dealer, ask them for a free vehicle history report. This report can identify used cars in poor condition and discover potential hidden gems, too. 

INSPECT THE CAR – INSIDE AND OUT

First, inspect the vehicle’s exterior. Look for scratches, dents, and rust. You probably don't need to worry about small dings or scratches, but larger areas of damage could be cause for concern. Also, check that all body panels line up evenly. Uneven panels may indicate the vehicle was in an accident but was not repaired well. It's also a good idea to open and close the doors, hood, and trunk to see how easily they move. 

Then, look under the hood for any obvious cracks in the car's hoses and belts, which could mean they are deteriorating. Also, look for dark stains on the engine block – that’s a big warning sign for a leaky gasket. Repairs could cost a pretty penny.

You may also want to check the seats for unusual wear and tear in the upholstery. If the interior smells musty, check the carpet and floor mats for signs of a leak or water damage.

CHECK THE MILEAGE

The average vehicle owner drives about 14,000 miles each year.1 To determine whether the used car you’re considering purchasing has reasonable mileage, multiply 12,000 by its age. For example, a 5-year-old car should have approximately 70,000 miles on it. Higher mileage could mean more mechanical wear and tear. Conversely, lower mileage could indicate that the car has been sitting for a long time. Some parts could have dried out and may require immediate repair or replacement.

After you have researched the VIN history, inspected the exterior and interior, checked the mileage, and determined if it’s a good buy, you should be ready to purchase your “new to you” car. Visit slfcu.org/AutoLoans to get started.


1.www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2019



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