Important Questions to Ask before Purchasing a Used Car
Most people know how to acquire a used car — simply hand the seller a check — but few consumers really know the vehicle they are purchasing before they complete the sale. To remove some of the mystery, Speedy Daddy has come up with several helpful questions that all buyers should ask themselves before eagerly signing on the dotted line.
DO YOU KNOW THE VEHICLE?
You’ve made an offer on a vehicle that you like, but do you really know it? Go online and visit a message board or forum to read what current owners — the real experts — have to say (the easiest way to do that is to Google the make and model, followed by the word forum – e.g., “BMW 3 Series forum”). Owners are often very frank when it comes to mentioning problem areas, and they seek the advice of others in a similar situation in online forums. Registration is often free and it only requires a minute or two. Take advantage of this automotive camaraderie, as it may prevent future headaches and alert you to issues before the information is public (e.g., the 2007 BMW 3 Series had many problems with its high pressure fuel pump long before there was an official word or recall from BMW).
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE TRUE MAINTENANCE COSTS?
The days of expensive semi-annual valve adjustments are behind us (nearly all late-model vehicle use hydraulic valves which automatically adjust themselves), but some vehicles, such as turbocharged models, still require more maintenance than others. It is a similar story with larger wheels and tires, as a small variance in size can mean big differences in terms of wear and replacement cost (e.g., The optional 20-inch tires on the BMW X5 wear out nearly twice as fast as the no-cost optional 19-inch tires, and the rubber itself is much more expensive to replace). Call the dealer and inquire about the cost for a minor and a major service. Does the vehicle require more expensive synthetic oil (more than double the cost)? Ask when major components (e.g., timing belt, water pumps) are normally replaced. Last, call a local independent shop and ask them the same questions (especially if the purchase is out of warranty). While the smaller facilities may not have the latest factory diagnostic tools, don’t discount their competence or abilities to repair your vehicle.
DID YOU DRIVE MORE THAN ONE COPY?
If your heart is set on a specific make and model, do yourself a favor and test drive more than just the vehicle you are about to purchase — test drive at least two or three! As humans, we are pretty savvy at picking up minor differences between nearly identical items. Call several owners with the same make and model you are seeking and arrange test drives to put that talent to work. You just may learn that the whine from under the hood of the Ford Focus isn’t normal, the Acura MDX should not whistle on the freeway and that not all Volkswagen Golf’s rattle.
Buying a used car is a major purchase, regardless of the cost. Do a bit more homework up front, and save some major headaches down the road. Have questions? Post them in our comments below.
– Michael Harley