When the economy took a dive a few years ago, more and more people realized that buying brand new vehicles just wasn’t in the cards. In order to find that balance between saving money and having vehicles that work well, it felt like everyone was rushing out in droves and snapping up used cars left and right. While the economy has been slowly getting better, there’s still a heavy trend toward buying used rather than new to save some money. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful about the vehicle you pick, buying used can also be a big money-pit. How do you avoid buying a lemon? Before you sign on that dotted line, take the time to look over the car or, if you don’t know much about cars, get a trusted mechanic to give it a once-over.

Always Look Before You Buy

When you buy a brand new vehicle, it will generally come with a warranty that is good for so many years or miles, whichever comes first. As much as we all might wish, the protection of a warranty isn’t usually included when you buy used vehicles, even when they come from a reputable dealership. Buying used also comes with a few other hurdles that buying new doesn’t, one of the primary concerns being how well cared for the car was by the previous owners. A new car may have some quirks, but if any manufacturing issues arise, the warranty is designed to cover the cost for repairs. Buying used, you don’t get that same level of assurance; any sort of recall will generally be at least partially covered by the manufacturer, but any other issues are your responsibility as the new owner. Yes, even if the damage was done by the previous owner. When you buy used, one of the many sheets you’ll inevitably sign is an agreement that you accept responsibility for any repairs or issues with the car. The car may or may not come with an inspection done by the dealership, but that inspection isn’t always thorough, and it certainly isn’t fool-proof.

The other issue with buying used is the question of who you purchase from. A dealership that sells used vehicles is likely to at least do a cursory inspection and a bit of work on the car before they put it on the lot. If you decide to purchase from a private seller, however, you’re pretty much left with their word for any issues there may be and any work they had done. If you choose to buy a car from the want ads or a seller on Craigslist, there usually isn’t much you can do if the car breaks down a week later. The seller certainly isn’t going to take it back, and your insurance isn’t going to cover mechanical issues unless they were caused by a collision.

Choosing Wisely

Given how costly purchasing a used car has the potential to be, it’s always a good idea to be as cautious as possible when making your purchase—assuming you aren’t buying an inexpensive junker car for the express purpose of driving until it falls apart. If you’re purchasing used but you want the car to actually last long enough to get your money’s worth, you’ll want to take a few steps to better protect yourself. First, do some research into the history of that model and year on reputable car sites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. This will give you a good idea about any particular quirks or issues that crop up repeatedly for that vehicle, how much work it will take to fix it, and how much those issues may or may not affect the life of the car.

The other step you’ll want to take is to get a second opinion. Even though a dealership may offer you an inspection sheet signed off by their mechanic, there could still be issues. Whether you’re buying from a dealership or a private seller, you’ll want to have a trusted mechanic give the vehicle a thorough inspection, maybe even a double-check with a car diagnostic tool. If there are issues with the car, there’s no need to automatically cross it off your list. Ask your mechanic for an estimated cost of repairs to get a better idea whether the vehicle is still worth purchasing. Not only will that inspection give you a better idea about what you can expect from the vehicle as you drive it, it will give you a stronger point for negotiation. And, well, consider it a warning sign if a seller or dealership doesn’t want you to get a second opinion.

If you’re looking for an honest opinion on a vehicle you’re thinking about purchasing, trust a local mechanic who will tell you just what to expect. At Your Import Car Doctor in Colorado Springs, we pride ourselves on providing honest information to all of our customers. Contact us today to schedule!