Between the New Year and tax season, it’s car buying season. By allowing yourself to sear across the nation you vastly expand the likelihood of finding the perfect car. But when buying any secondhand car there are a number of things you should look out for. So, before you can start your long-distance search, it’s important to understand the advantages of buying secondhand, as well as the potential disadvantages and to avoid them.
Why Buy a Used Car?
Few things excite avid car enthusiasts like buying a brand new car. New cars even a distinct smell – and to car lovers, this smell is better than even the best French perfume. Unfortunately, buying a new car straight from the manufacturer has its disadvantages, especially when it to finances.
Sure, novelty of buying a new makes it seem exciting, but here are some reasons why used cars often make for a better investment:
- Used cars cost less. If you wait just a year before buying a new car model you’ve been eyeing, you can pay up to 19% less for a car that’s basically still brand new.
- Your car’s value won’t depreciate as fast. Cars cost about 19% less after one year, and you’d be the one losing that money if you bought new instead of used. The first time you drive your new car, its value will depreciate by approximately 11%. While used cars also lose value, it will be more gradual.
- Avoid dealers. Sometimes you can buy a pretty good car from a private seller, this will further lower the price you pay for your car, as you won’t have to worry about added fees dealers might charge. But keep in mind that buying from a private seller can complicate paperwork somewhat.
- Registration can be cheaper. In some states, your annual registration fees will be more expensive if your car model is newer.
- Used cars can be just as good. Buying a used car might not feel like something to brag about, but being smart is definitely better than being ostentatious. If your used car can get you from point A to point B and you don’t need to sacrifice on luxury or fuel efficiency, what are you really missing? But new cars cost thousands of dollars more, and you’re sure to miss that.
Obviously, buying used is the thrifty way to go. So although used cars are better for any occasion, they’re especially better if you want to a low-budget option that will be reliable. This makes used cars perfect for when you’re buying a car for a teenage driver, as you can pick something with safety benefits without blowing the bank.
Used Car Checklist
Don’t buy a lemon! Buying a bad car might lose you all the money you saved by not buying new, so to make used car buying worthwhile, the car you buy should be in tiptop shape.
Here’s what buyers should look for when buying a used car:
- Check that the width of spaces between panels are equal. If the spacing between panels vary from place to another, there’s a good chance the car was in an accident. When buying a car long-distance, asking for photos of all the spaces can help. If the seller has nothing to hide, the photos will be taken from good angles, allowing you to easily see whether they’re equal all over.
- Avoid rust. While it can be difficult to spot rust on photos, a car is more likely to have rust if it comes from a city or town that’s right next to the coast.
- Is the color consistent throughout all the panels? If one panel looks repainted, the car was almost definitely involved in an accident.
- Ask for photos of the tires. If all the tires are worn about equally, the wheel alignment won’t cause problems, but look out if one if worn significantly more than the others.
- Ask for photos of the engine. The engine should be clean, a dirty engine can be a sign that the car was neglected.
- Ask for a video of the car idling. This will help you to hear of there are any strange noises coming from the engine.
- Ask for photos of the interior. You want the interior to look clean, well-maintained and good as new.
Buying long-distance complicates things somewhat, but it’s completely possible to find a great car, even if you buy it from the opposite side of the country.
A great tip is to focus on car listings that already have a lot of photos. Also check that the information in the description fits the car on the photo. If the description says the car is blue, but the one in the photos is black, it’s either because the seller made a mistake, or the listing might be a bit sketchy.
Apart from the checking the specific car that you’re buying, it’s also good to check up on the make and make and model you want to buy. The US Department of Transportation has an online lookup tool where you can easily see if the car you want to buy has any recalled parts. If so, you’ll have to add that onto your list of things to consider when looking at a specific car you want to buy. Of course you can still buy a car with recalled parts, but you’ll need to check that the seller of the one you’re buying has replaced them.