When you’re in the market to purchase a used vehicle, preferably one that’s dependable, reliable and can get you from point A to point B without problem, it’s best to ask yourself a few questions first. Before you open the classified section of your local newspaper or go on-line for a great deal, you might want to consider how you intend to use the vehicle. Will it be driven around town for short trips to the market, a second car to transport you to and from work, or is it a family car, maybe one you intend to keep for a few years? Asking yourself these questions at the onset will give you the power to resist an impulse buy later.
Now, you’re ready to roll with a search that fits your needs and your lifestyle, but keep in mind that in order to avoid the pitfalls of buying someone else’s problem, you’ll need to ask some questions about the vehicle you intend to buy, so here’s a handy checklist to get you started:
- Mileage: Ask how many miles the vehicle has on the odometer. 12,000 miles per year is standard.
- Ownership: Is the seller the original owner? If so, they’ll be your complete source of information.
- Service Records: Does the seller have records of repairs and maintenance? In 2003, I purchased a 1984 Volvo from a seller who kept records of everything, including all oil changes and fuel efficiency on long trips. He presented me with receipts and two complete notebooks. I bought the car and when I sold it later, it still ran like new.
- Special Features: Does it have air conditioning, power windows, a CD player? More importantly, do they work?
- Reason for The Sale: Is the owner relocating out of the area, buying something new or something else entirely? Buyer Beware: note the seller’s response and check your intuition meter. If the answer doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. Remember, the seller is in the business of selling and so may not reveal that it leaks oil like Niagara Falls or that it shakes like a wooden roller coaster when it reaches 35 mph.
- Accidents: Has the vehicle ever been involved in an accident? Hopefully, you’ll get an honest answer. If you’re in doubt, you can research this information on-line.
- Check It Out: Ask to take the vehicle for a test drive and possibly to a local service garage for a once over.
- MPG: These days, it wouldn’t hurt to ask about fuel economy and miles per gallon. Also ask about E85 fuel. Some vehicles with smaller engines use this flex fuel, which is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
- Price: How much is the asking price? If it doesn’t fit your budget, is the seller willing to haggle a bit?
- Happiness Factor: Was the owner happy with the car? This is the question I never fail to ask and the one that’s met with the most surprise. If the owner has been happy with the vehicle, you can see it in their eyes; there’s just no getting around pride of ownership.