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Expert Tips for Buying a Used Car

Expert Tips for Buying a Used Car

What Steps Should I Take When Buying a Used Car, Truck or SUV?A NAPA Auto Care technician performing a vehicle inspection

When researching, the experts at NAPA are here with tips for buying a used car, as well as to inspect any potential prospects. In a market flooded with several good vehicle options, it is important to know what is an easy fix and economical repair versus a lemon and heart-wrenching money pit. Conducting a thorough inspection during the used car buying process is imperative, and NAPA is here to ease your concerns around making a smart purchase.

Responsible used car buying includes having peace of mind, which is exactly why a good used car buying tip is to take your intended purchase to NAPA Auto Care for a full vehicle inspection before any money exchanges hands. This is a critical step that buyers must insist upon. You would want to know if there is uncovered flood damage or how long the suspension and transmission is expected to last before it needs repair as the inspection results guide you to ask pertinent questions.

Should I Plan to Pay for Repairs on a Used Car?

There are plenty of viable options that have the great fixing-up potential. Still, you want to make sure that these are repairs, such dings or interior cabin stains. Even windshield cracks in some cases are acceptable repairs. In others, the repair is much more extensive, which is why you need a vehicle inspection. An inspection includes a full mechanical, electrical and cosmetic review. Any upcoming maintenance or repairs that might get overlooked during a test drive are detailed in the vehicle inspection report. 

Knowing the vehicle’s condition and the cost of upcoming expenses for repairs can give you peace of mind and ultimately save you money. Paying for repairs that include engine, transmission work, overheating and undiagnosed codes get crossed off the list first in terms of car picks unless unavoidable. If you have already bought a used car, truck or SUV, then you can rely on NAPA repair services for an estimate. When in doubt, take your vehicle to a local NAPA Auto Care Center near you.

The NAPA Network can take care of those easy fixes, including brake repair, A/C servicing, wheel alignment, battery replacement and headlight replacement, all with convenient financing options and a 24 Months/24,000 Miles Peace of Mind Warranty. Our technicians are ASE certified because in today’s advanced vehicle market, there are constant, nuanced improvements getting made to high-tech sedans, luxury SUVs and massive trucks alike, and auto shops must stay equipped with the latest tools and specialist mechanics. That’s exactly why our technicians are a cut above the rest.  

Easily locate a neighborhood NAPA Auto Care Center near you for help with any vehicle repair, consultation and pre-purchase inspection. Don’t forget your local NAPA Auto Parts store is always here to help too. Did you know that even if a vehicle doesn’t come with a key fob, remote car lock and alarm, you can likely find a replacement by shopping online with NAPA. Because, let’s face it, second keys and fobs can go missing when used cars transact. Pick your make and model and purchase that needed key fob for a great fix to a big issue. 

Used Car Buying Checklist

Set some important parameters as you explore the pre-owned car market. One general expert tip for buying a used car is to search for one with less than 60,000 miles and insist on seeing an official accident report if available. Factoring in your lifestyle, wants and needs all contribute to your purchasing guidelines. For a teen, the parameters might adjust to focus on an older-model, starter vehicle with higher safety ratings and approachable maintenance. In contrast, a seasoned driver might search for the perfect utility vehicle or Jeep with all the perks and customization possibilities. 

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car?

  • Is the windshield free of cracks?
  • Are all tires from the same brand? 
  • Are there body scratches and dents?
  • Do the trunk and driver side door unlock with a key?
  • Does the car include a spare tire, jack and lug wrench? 
  • Are all the headlights and hazard lights working properly? Including high beams, etc.
  • Do all the electronic components work properly, e.g. the A/C, stereo, backup camera and instrument panel?
  • Are there fine scratches on the paint or significant paint issues?
  • Are any codes appearing on the dashboard when the vehicle is running? If yes, what do the codes mean?

This list is not extensive, so if you see something that wasn’t addressed in the vehicle inspection, say something to your mechanic about it. More extreme vehicle repairs that you might not visibly catch on your own include oil leaks or other fluid drips, corroded batteries, cloudy exhaust pipe emission, suspension squeaking while in motion and rough gear shifting. 

Taking an experienced driver along to test drive the car once it’s passed the visual checklist test is also very helpful for catching vehicle quirks like steering wheel interference, drifting, unsettling vibrations or squeaks, the A/C and heat not working and other red flags that may need TLC. 

Important topics to cover when buying a used car include worth of the vehicle, its age and mileage, the warranty and insurance premiums, reason the person is selling it, if they have the title in hand plus previous length of ownership. 

How to Avoid Buying a Lemon

Negotiation is also a huge factor when buying a used vehicle; therefore, the more you know, the better deal you are potential able to get. Researching the vehicle make, model and year lay the foundation for a responsibly used car purchase, and there exists plenty of information about vehicle ratings, customer reviews and recalls from services like Carfax. This preparation enables you to organize all your questions so you can get the facts you need.

Set a defined budget, including factoring in an extended warranty (if possible), so you can feel confident about finding the best deal for you. Savvy shoppers can optionally shop at local used car dealerships around holidays and special seasons for extra savings. Our experts optionally recommend cruising auctions and searching online on websites like Carvana

When approaching independent sellers, ask the owner why the vehicle is getting sold. Also, ask about the vehicle’s title and check that it is clear, valid and will get transferred to you at the sale rather than a later date.

How to Buy a Good, Used Electric Vehicle (EV)?

The price of used EVs has come down as used electric vehicles flood the pre-owned market. In the ABC News article titled, Looking to Buy a Used EV? Here’s What You Should Know, the cost of a Tesla Model S in 2022 was $79K, but has dropped to nearly $60K just one year later.

If you’re weighing your options around the risks involved with buying electric, especially a used EV, the first thing to ask about is the battery health. Rely on The NAPA Network to set up those pre-purchase vehicle inspections to catch any issues upfront and avoid an unexpected EV battery replacement that could set you back $5–15K. 

Next, see if any manufacturer warranties exist on the used EV. And lastly, take full advantage of all the government-issued EV-owner incentives. Hurry and check out “What Is an EV Credit and How to Take Advantage of It” for awesome information on claiming EV tax credits, qualifications and more. 

Explore the NAPA Auto Care Repair Estimator for more in-depth quotes for your used car repair needs. We know that used car buying needs to evolve with the times. However, some of the classic advice still rings true, so please take a look at the NAPA blog’s archived classics around used car buying from years past: “3 Used Car Buying Tips You Should Follow” and “Be Prepared: Considerations for Buying a Used Car”.

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

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More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.

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