Purchasing a used car can be exciting. With so many options available in the market, it’s essential to do research before making any final decisions.
Researching a used car can save you a lot of time and money. It’s not only about eventually inspecting the car, but also about getting the right information.
And it’s not just about finding the right make and model — but in also understanding the model and specific vehicle’s history and condition.
While a used car may seem like a great deal at first glance, there could be underlying issues that could cause problems down the road.
By doing your due diligence and thoroughly researching a used car before buying, you can ensure a more confident and satisfactory purchase.
In this article, we focus on the research aspect.
Determine your needs and budget
Before you start your search, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you need in a car and how much you can afford to spend.
Consider factors such as the car’s size, fuel efficiency, features, and maintenance costs.
I like to look at sites with vehicle reports along with those sites selling cars and on Facebook marketplace.
Each helps me get an idea of what features a car has, what features are important, what cars are available and the market prices.
Know what you’re looking for
What kind of car do you need and what’s your budget?
Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start to narrow down your options.
There are a lot of great resources online that can help you research used cars. You can read reviews, compare prices and find out about the history of a particular car.
I’ve found that Motor Trend, Edmunds and other related sites help me understand what features a car has. Facebook marketplace, craigslist and auto trader help me see what prices cars are selling for.
Assuming that you already have a specific make and model in mind, you should not overlook general problems that are common for that particular vehicle. Make sure to not get emotional about a certain model of car — especially if you find out that model has a history of needing costly repairs. Fortunately, you can find extensive information on the internet.
For example, I bought a 2002 Lexus RX300 several years ago. I didn’t research this car like I should have. At 105,000 miles the transmission gave out and the warranty was only good to 100,000 miles.
Afterwards, I found information indicating many people experienced transmission problems on the range of the 2000-2003 RX300. And it was going to be at least $4500 to put a rebuilt transmission in, even though only a $30 part had failed. Rather than pay for a replacement transmission, I put Lucas tranny fix in and it ran great for another 5000 miles — even though that was somewhat risky.
My point being it’s essential to be aware of the specific nuances of your chosen vehicle — which you can easily find on the internet.
Check different models
Once you know what you’re looking for, research different car models that fit your needs and budget.
Look for reviews and ratings from trusted sources like Consumer Reports, Edmunds, or Kelley Blue Book.
Pay attention to factors such as reliability, safety, and overall value.
If a specific model of car has of history of breaking down, find out what problems that car typically has. Then research YouTube to see how others handled repairs for that specific problem.
This can give you an idea of the severity and cost experience others have with that model of car.
Finding the right car
Once you are comfortable with a specific make and model, you need to find a specific car.
You have several options: you can go to a dealer, a private seller, or an auto auction.
Each option has pros and cons.
Going to a dealer will give you more confidence in the vehicle, but it will also be more expensive.
Going to a private seller may give you a better deal, but you will have less confidence in the car.
Going to an auto auction will give you the least confidence, but it may give you the best deal.
Check the car’s history
Get a vehicle history report. This is usually done before the purchase because it’s important to check the history to make sure the vehicle hasn’t been in any major accidents — or had any serious mechanical issues.
No matter where you buy the car, you have two main options to determine its history. The cheaper option is AutoCheck, which can tell you if a vehicle has been in a major accident, if there has been an insurance claim related to the vehicle, or if it has been involved in a police report.
The more comprehensive and expensive option is Carfax, which can tell you the maintenance history, the associated mileage at those maintenance dates, and a more specific ownership history, as well as recall history.
After the most important process of negotiation, researching a used car is the next in importance — and you can find a lot of information on the internet. We talk about power negotiations in the next article.
When buying a car, remember that you have different options and you are in control. After all, it’s your money to spend and your decision to make.
The main thing to keep in mind for your research is to not overlook general problems that are common for the specific make and model of the vehicle you are interested in.
Some people get emotionally attached to a vehicle and disregard early red flags. Such a vehicle could eventually develop a costly problem where the buyer can’t afford the repair — so the car sits a while and the person has no transportation.
Determining the car’s history using either AutoCheck or Carfax to get a better understanding of the car’s background. Inspecting also helps and we talk about that in a later article.