When buying a vehicle, it is important to do your research. That’s one thing you may find easier to do if you are considering a used car rather than a brand-new model. These days, consumers do not have to wonder about a vehicle’s history or what other owners’ experiences have been. Here are a few ways in which researching used cars will likely provide you with information.
Past Reviews Are Available
Consumer Reports mails out annual questionnaires to its members. This has allowed the panel to compile information about more than half a million different vehicles. Using this information, you can determine how likely it would be that a certain model would experience mechanical issues.
This type of information is typically very limited for new cars. Owner surveys may not take place for several months after a new model has been released. This means that new car buyers are actually at a disadvantage when it comes to collecting historical data.
Consumer reviews are virtually non-existent in the beginning as well. As a result, you may not know how buyers have felt about their new car purchase. You’ll have to rely on information from other owners directly, which is something that is not always possible.
Sellers are not required to disclose information about possible recalls on used cars. However, that does not mean that consumers are left in the dark. Through its website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides information about vehicle recalls.
Enter your vehicle’s 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into the website. This will provide you with any information concerning open recalls. Getting these recalls fixed will not cost you anything out of pocket. Even so, you may wish to negotiate for them to be taken care of before making the sale.
Open recalls can sometimes be a red flag for buyers. For example, if there are several open recalls, this could be a sign that other maintenance and repairs have also been neglected. As a result, you may wish to dig deeper into a vehicle’s history.
It isn’t possible to know whether a new car will experience a recall because recalls typically do not happen right away. Therefore, just because there are no current recalls on a new model does not mean there will not be any in the future.
A number of agencies provide vehicle crash testing on new automobiles. These agencies include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).
While this information can be helpful, it does not list every problem. That’s because some are not discovered until several months after a model has been released. As an example, the NTHSA reports receiving hundreds of complaints from Volkswagen, Honda, and Nissan owners about automatic braking issues. Some owners claimed their brakes did not engage properly. Others claimed they activated without warning, even when there was no apparent danger.
Issues such as these are normally well-documented for vehicles that are at least one year old. Accordingly, used car buyers will not be blindsided by unexpected problems that would ultimately result in a safety issue.
Vehicle History Report
According to Consumer Reports, 43 percent of all new car buyers are concerned about breakdowns. In addition, Yahoo reveals that 69 percent of all Americans are willing to consider a used vehicle, yet they have concerns about reliability and future repairs.
Vehicle history reports can provide you with a wealth of information about an automobile. For example, you can learn whether or not a car has been involved in an accident and what its title history is. You can find out what type of maintenance it has had as well as if there are any open recalls.
Having this information can help you make a more informed decision. You can get an idea as to how well a car has been maintained by its previous owners. As a result, you can better anticipate any future repairs or maintenance as well.
Odometer readings are collected at certain intervals, such as during service appointments. Accordingly, you will also have a good feeling as to whether or not the current odometer reading is accurate.
Keep in mind that certain information may not be listed in a vehicle history report. For example, accidents that happen after the last recorded event may not make it into a database. Therefore, there could be structural or mechanical issues that would not be revealed in the report.
Due to privacy concerns, the names of previous owners are not available. As such, you might not always know whether someone is telling the truth about a vehicle’s history. Just because someone says the car was owned by a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sunday does not necessarily mean that is the case.
Vehicle history reports cannot tell you anything other than a general service history. This means you should not rely on them for information about a car’s mechanical condition. Even the most comprehensive report is not a substitute for a full mechanic’s inspection.
Total Cost of Ownership
The average monthly payment for new vehicles was $523 in 2018. However, there are more costs involved than just the car note. You’ll have to consider the cost of fuel, maintenance, repairs, tags and insurance as well. For vehicles that are driven 15,000 miles each year, that can amount to as much as $706 per month.
Several websites can help you determine how much it might cost for you to own a particular used model. These include Kelley Blue Book’s Five Year Cost to Own and Consumer Report’s Cost of Vehicle Ownership. Older models tend to have more information available than newer ones because historical data has already been collected. This, in turn, provides a more accurate picture of the total cost of ownership.
There are several ways to determine the fair market value of a used car. First, you can visit sites such as Kelley Blue Book to see what others are paying for vehicles with similar mileage and features. You can then compare that information with sales prices on auction or listing sites to verify that it is accurate.
Determining the price of a brand-new car can be somewhat more difficult as prices can fluctuate greatly between dealers. Cost, overhead, profit margin and location can all affect how much a particular dealership charges for a new automobile. As such, knowing what you should actually be paying is often more challenging as well.
With so much information out there, how do you go about researching a used car? First, you should determine that the pre-owned model you desire is within your price range. Ideally, your car payment should be no more than 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay. Begin by coming up with a budget as well as a list of vehicles that would meet your requirements.
Do some comparisons to verify that the models you have chosen are, indeed, affordable. You can do this by checking the websites of area dealerships as well as online classifieds.
Once you have found something you are interested in, ask for a vehicle history report. AutoCheck and CarFax are two popular vehicle history providers that require only a Vehicle Identification Number to get started. Review the vehicle history report, looking for obvious red flags that might indicate the car has title issues or odometer discrepancies.
Talk with the seller to learn more about the vehicle. Try to find out about any past problems as well as why that person is selling. You may also wish to ask for service records. Do not attempt to negotiate until you have obtained a good bit of information and are sure you are interested.
Arrange for a test drive to see how well the car runs. Look for obvious problems such as leaks or unusual noises. Check the headlights, taillights, turn signals, etc. to ensure that everything is working properly. Inspect the tires, brakes, and battery to determine how much life might be left in them.
Having a vehicle inspection performed can be a smart investment, even for those who feel comfortable spotting problems on their own. Many shops will charge between $100 and $200 to have a licensed mechanic provide this service. However, this is often money well spent as it can help you avoid cars that would require extensive repairs later.
Researching Used Cars Is Easy to Do
There has never been more information available about used cars than right now. Additionally, older vehicles tend to have more data collected about them than newer models do. As such, performing research on a pre-owned automobile is something you’ll find very easy to do. Use this guide to help you make an informed decision about your next pre-owned vehicle purchase.