Buying a used car can be quite a smart idea, if you are an informed consumer. With the increasing popularity of leasing, the opportunity to purchase a late model vehicle has become less of a daunting task. Also, with the inception of “certified manufacturer used car” programs, the availability of quality vehicles with extended manufacturer’s warranties has seemed to increase the level of reliability of the used car market.
The three most common places to make a used car purchase are a manufacturer affiliated dealership “ABC Honda”, a used car broker dealership “CarMax” and the private seller which could be a stranger on Trader.com/.ca or your neighbour. You can save on car ownership costs from any of these sources and have the opportunity to purchase a vehicle for many times at half of its original value.
As an example a new Honda Accord in Ontario,Canada could cost upwards of $35000.00 plus GST (goods and services tax) and PST (provincial sales tax) which would give you a total price of $39550.00.The same four year old Honda Accord could have a price of $14000.00 plus the PST and no GST if bought privately which would give you a complete price of $15120.00.
You would hope a Honda Accord would reg check last for at least twelve years and upwards of 300 000kms and commonly they exceed this level. If this is the case you would still have the car for a minimum of eight years. You being the owner of the car for eight years, if it actually completely quit in its 12th year, means you received more then 66% of its life for 38% of its original value. Not a bad investment, if you look at it that way.
You can also save yourself on the cost of insurance if you are buying used cars. This in conjunction with the depreciation savings can save you tens of thousands of dollars in car ownership costs.
With all of the cost savings when buying used cars and the opportunities to buy high quality, warrantied vehicles from reputable dealers and private individuals it is still a buyer beware purchase. The laws regarding warranties are a little more skewed for the pre-owned vehicle market. Therefore, the need to be diligent in your research is increased substantially when you are planning on buying a used car even if it is a used Honda. Where did the car come from? How much did it originally sell for? Are there any common issues with this make and model? Has it been in an accident or just painted, and if so why? These are only a small sampling of questions you should ask yourself when you are in the market for a “quality pre-owned vehicle”.
When you are buying a used car , the process of evaluating the vehicle at the dealership or the sellers home is a little bit different then it is with new cars. For obvious reasons critiquing a used vehicle needs to be done with a more discerning eye. Actually, a discerning eye, ear and nose to be more specific. Read some reviews and then use the checklist below to be sure you are evaluating your specific used car thoroughly and correctly.
Buying Used Cars Checklist for YOU
**Wear some old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and a companion to help with some of the checks**Checking the Exterior
Be sure to crouch or kneel down by each fender and move along the side of the vehicle to check for ripples or difference in paint color. You will be able to see flaws while looking down the vehicle from front to back. Both could indicate a form of body repair. If the area is large enough or covers an entire section (whole door) be sure to have the vehicle checked thoroughly by a professional. For Honda’s, each body component is affixed with a tag that has the id number on it. Check the trunk, the door sills, the bumpers and engine compartment to be sure all of the stickers match and are from Honda. If the component has been replaced but with a Honda replacement part the tag will indicate this. Not all manufacturer’s use this, so be aware when you are buying used cars from other companies. Look around component pieces, lights, moldings etc. Is there any paint that is on the edges of these pieces. Also a good idea is to use either CarProof.com or CarFax.com to be sure of any accidents or body damage if you are not 100% certain.Checking the Component and Trim Pieces
While you are walking around the vehicle looking for out of place paint take the opportunity to check if the component pieces are damaged or missing. Is there any misalignment or are all of the component pieces sitting flush/even in their area. Also are there any paint bubbles or raising around the moldings or seams? If you can push on the rust bubble with your fingernail or another sharp object. If it crumbles easily and allows you to continue through the metal, the vehicle is rusting from the inside which can be very costly to repair. Rust that has started on the outside and has not advanced too far will be much less costly to repair, many times with just a little touch up paint. Are all of the trim pieces securely fastened or are they loose to the touch. Don’t pull too hard on them as they are normally only adhered by double sided tape and/or small clips. Are the bumpers secure and mounted flush/even with the body? Is the hood misaligned or does it have equal gaps on both sides. Open and close all of the doors and trunk. Do they close easily? Are they misaligned? and is there any rust on the edges? **Be aware also that buying used cars that have been repainted because of rust will normally continue to rust even after the repair. Ask why the car was painted, if it was, and if they can supply photos for a before comparison.Checking the Undercarriage
Checking for rust in the undercarriage when buying used cars is fairly simple, it’s dirty but simple. Turn the vehicle on and turn the steering wheel all the way to the right to look in the left wheel well and the opposite way for the right side. Do you see any rust or bubbles in the metal or are you seeing fresh rust proofing? If there is new rust proofing, scrape some off to the metal with a sharp tool and look for rust or work it between your fingers to feel for rust particles if you do not see any. Do the same for the rear wells also. Remember that fresher undercoating is not normally protecting you when you are looking at buying used cars it is commonly hiding something. Since you are near the tires when you are doing all of this, check them also. Do they all match? If not they should to slow the wearing process. Do they seem to be wearing evenly from side to side and front to back. While you are at the back of the vehicle check the exhaust (muffler and tailpipe). How does the exhaust smell and look. Does it smell burnt or sweet? (don’t breath in too much though) Two indicators of possibly large dollar problems. Is the exhaust basically invisible or look like smoke? What color is it? If it is blue (oil) or white (water vapor) make sure you tell your mechanic. Are there any holes in the exhaust that are large enough to see while the car is on the ground? If there are the exhaust system may need to be replaced. Working your way along the bottom of the vehicle look for welding seams. If there are excessive weld marks it could be the sign of an accident repair, but point them out to your mechanic to be certain.Under the Hood with Engine OFF
Check these components while the engine is turned off. Look at the radiator. Is there any corrosion or rust? The metal fins that run from one side of the rad to the other, are they damaged or bent on either side? how bad does it look, little bits of damage is common. Look at the hoses that run from the radiator. Are there any stress marks or bubbles? If there is you may run into leaks later. Follow the one hose to the overflow container. How does tthe coolant look. Is it dirty or rusty in appearance? This could be an indication of bigger problems or at least that the maintenance has been sub par. Check all of the belts that wrap around the front of the engine, both the inside and outside of them. Do the look dry or have any cracks? Remember to keep notes on all your findings when buying used cars so your mechanic looks more closely at your areas of concern. Look at the battery. Does it look old and corroded? If so have your mechanic check the cells to be sure you don’t have a dead one or two.Under the Hood with Engine ON
Have your companion start the engine after the vehicle has sat for awhile (cold to the touch) while you are at the rear of the car. When the car first starts is there smoke from the exhaust? Make a note of the color and the smell to tell your mechanic. Does the exhaust pulse? This could be do to bad valves. Put a piece of paper in front of the tailpipe if the paper is pulled towards it, it could mean serious issues. Run your finger on the inside of the tailpipe before it gets too hot. Is there any liquid on your finger? What color is it? Oil leaks can sometimes show through the exhaust. How did the vehicle start. Did it start right away or hesitate before firing up? Have your companion push the accelerator down gently and consistently after you go to the front of the vehicle. How does the engine sound? Do you hear any knocking, rattling or squealing sounds? Check all the points where two components join, are there any signs of leaking after the vehicle has warmed up(6-7 minutes)? Put the vehicle in gear and pull it away from its parking spot. Do you see any liquid? Dab your finger in it to check for color (red, brown etc) and then smell it. Make a note of your findings. Many sellers may not know or will try to hide these findings from you when you are buying used cars. Saying it is probably the air conditioning is a common response, but buyer beware.Checking the Interior
Looking for stains (water marks) along the edges of the headliner especially near the windows are strong indicators of leaking seals. Pull up the floor mats and if applicable the seat covers. What sort of shape is it in? If you are concerned about severe water marks on the floor have your mechanic look for the possibility of rust forming.With the engine running check the heat (are there any smells from the system?) and the defrost (do you hear it turn on?). Check the air conditioning, do you hear the compressor turning on an off with a clicking sound? Are there any smells? Some may be from a leak of refrigerant which could be very costly to repair. Check the mileage. You should have no more then either 15000 miles per year in the United States or 24000 kms in Canada unless the vehicles price indicates a discount for more. If the mileage is much higher or lower then either of these numbers ask for an explanation of why.