What to look for when buying a used car

March 22 2018

Before you purchase a used car, it's important to learn as much about the vehicle's history as possible. Use the following checklist to ensure you're getting the best vehicle for your money.

1. Ask to see the title. A title is necessary to complete the sale and can tell you a lot about the vehicle. For example, in some states, the title indicates if the car has been wrecked or purchased under a lemon-law program.

2. Get a vehicle history report (VHR). This account of vehicle ownership, maintenance and accident history is gathered from official sources such as insurance companies and police departments. It can help you spot red flags, such as odometer tampering, a salvage title or open recalls.

3. Have the car inspected. Anything that isn't reported through official channels won't show up on the VHR, so it's important to get the car professionally inspected. A well-trained eye can spot previous bodywork or repairs and pinpoint any current issues.

4. Test-drive the vehicle. Make sure you like the way it drives. Pay attention to the little things. Does the air conditioner work? Do you notice any unusual noises, vibrations or smells? The smell of mildew, for example, could indicate hidden water damage.

5. Consider the price. How did the owner come up with the number? You can check the car's estimated market value using a price guide such as Kelley Blue Book to ensure you're getting a fair deal. And always feel free to negotiate.

If you're thinking about buying a used car, don't be afraid to ask questions and get a professional opinion. The more information you have, the more satisfied you're likely to be with your purchase in the long run.

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