A car is often the second most expensive purchase in our lives after a house. But unlike houses, cars are kind of a bad investment – they depreciate like hell and often are costly to run. However, most households still need at least one vehicle these days. So, it’s only a matter of time until you face the task of having to buy one.
Often, people are too relaxed about buying a used car. This moment decides how trouble-free and comfortable your daily commute will be for at least a few upcoming years. Forgetting or simply skipping any of the vital used car checking steps can ruin your finances. So, with the help of Matas Buzelis – an auto expert at carVertical and the president of Association of Automotive Intelligence – we came up with a list of the most common mistakes buyers make before putting money on the table.
Skipping the test drive
Before you start rolling your eyes, bear in mind that most transmission and suspension problems can only be identified during a test drive. Some people are ok with buying used cars online. It means they don’t get a chance to test their purchase before transferring a ton of money.
A test drive also lets you experience the feeling behind the wheel, the importance of this shouldn’t be understated. Sedans, hatchbacks, off-roaders, sporty SUVs – every kind of vehicle feels different. You should experience this difference before paying.
How to perform a test drive?
First of all, make sure the seller is ok with you driving the car. The pedals, suspension, and transmission should feel different from your vehicle, so stay away from heavy traffic to avoid accidents. The key to a good test drive is trying different environments. So, find areas with:
- Long straights – test every gear. There should be no vibrations at higher speeds.
- Windy roads – see how well the car handles – is it stable or wobbly?
- Gravel – dirt roads are great for identifying a clunky and rattling suspension.
- Hills – driving uphill puts more pressure on the transmission. That’s where a worn clutch may start slipping.
Many may not feel competent enough to feel out any issues with a car during a test drive. However, according to Matas Buzelis, “even people who don’t understand much about cars can identify unusual clunking or grinding sounds, rough shifting, etc. This helps to decide if it’s even worth taking a step forward to seek a mechanic’s approval”.
Making impulsive decisions
One of the leading car salesmen tricks is luring people into impulsive purchases. Dealerships may convince you to choose an optional sunroof, even though it’s raining most of the time in your area. The same goes with used cars, but this time you lure yourself into impulsive decisions.
Before spending your hard-earned money on a sports car, think long and hard about your needs. Bigger engines significantly increase fuel expenses in the long run, SUVs use pricier tires, luxurious cars break down more frequently. Don’t overpay for things you don’t need.
Narrow down your choices
Dive into used car ads and you’ll overwhelm yourself to the point of “Let’s buy this one, I want to get over this madness ASAP.” Instead, figure out what type of car you need first. According to Matas Buzelis, the automotive expert of carVertical, there are simple steps that will help you filter out the wrong choices:
- Set your budget – your future car’s price shouldn’t exceed 35% of your annual income.
- Choose a fuel type – electric cars cost a fortune and depreciate rapidly, but are cheap to run. Diesel cars are economical and great for long journeys. Petrol cars are quieter and require less maintenance but use more fuel.
- Decide how much space you need – vans are the most practical in terms of seating and boot space. But station wagons also often do the trick, and are a lot more refined.
- Do you really need a 4×4? – SUVs and off-roaders are much more complex and expensive to maintain. If you don’t face extreme road conditions often, you may be better off with 2WD cars. Moreover, tyres are so advanced that even in very slippery conditions cars driven by a single axle offer just enough traction.
- Compare models from different manufacturers – don’t focus on one make for no solid reason. You may explore great alternatives for a lower price.
These simple steps will help you ignore the cars you don’t need and narrow the list to perfect choices for you and your family.
Ignoring the car’s history
Each car has a vehicle identification number (VIN), which holds valuable information, such as theft records, damage and mileage history, photos, etc. Various discrepancies and accidents are like a person’s criminal record – it’s there, and you cannot get rid of it. Anyone can buy a car history report and find out what the car has gone through during its lifespan – all you need is a VIN.
Unfortunately, many used car buyers still fall for such scams as mileage rollbacks, poorly fixed damages, and VIN cloning just because they don’t check the car’s history before buying it. By doing so, you’re not only risking to buy a battered ride but also getting into legal problems.
“People wouldn’t believe how many of the vehicles we see on the market everyday have a fake mileage reading. Based on all carVertical reports generated throughout last year, that number is as high as 15.2%,” says Matas Buzelis.
Buying without a mechanic’s advice
Unless you know how to inspect a car and have all the essential tools, you should take the vehicle to a professional for the final check-up. They will examine the suspension, the engine, and plug in a diagnostics tool. Call any repair shop near the seller at least a day before a check. That way you’ll ensure they will have time for you.
Such inspections aren’t expensive, but still – don’t waste your money if you aren’t serious about buying that car. Matas Buzelis is convinced that such inspections reveal how confident a seller is about their car: “I’ve often noticed used car sellers pointing out in ads that they are ok with inspections at a repair shop. However, don’t rely on their confidence alone – even the most confident sellers may start avoiding a professional inspection when you get to that part of the process. This is a red flag. But even if the seller is indeed confident, that doesn’t necessarily mean the car is in tip-top shape.”
No matter the car’s price, wrong choices when buying your next vehicle can lead to vast problems. The car can break down, you may discover malfunctioning systems, or even worse, you may end up in court!
Whenever you’re buying a used car, always do a proper test drive, only stick to vehicles you’re planning to buy, get a car history report, and seek a mechanic’s advice. Stay safe!