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Buying a used car can be a wise and financially savvy decision. The used car market offers a wide range of vehicles you can choose from at a more affordable cost than a new one. However, it can be harder to ensure reliability when purchasing a pre-owned car. It's essential to ask the right questions and conduct thorough inspections so you can make an informed decision.
In this article, the team at our Planet Ford Dallas dealership has created a guide to help you make intelligent decisions when buying a used car. We've compiled a checklist of things to consider, such as car mileage, service history, and what to look for when inspecting a used car. We advise on what to research, what to look for during a test drive, and how to run the vehicle identification number (VIN) to review the car's history.
When assessing a used car's mileage, it's crucial to consider two factors. First, lower mileage generally indicates less wear and tear on the vehicle. However, it could also suggest that the car has been stationary for extended periods, which may result in other problems. Second, higher mileage doesn't necessarily imply the vehicle is in poor condition, particularly if the previous owner maintained it well. We also recommend examining the type of mileage that the car has accumulated.
Cars with heavy city mileage, including frequent stop-and-go traffic, experience faster wear on components such as the transmission and brake pads. Highway miles typically involve a more consistent driving speed. This means less frequent acceleration and braking and, therefore, less wear on these components. A good rule of thumb is to look for a car that has approximately 10,000 miles on the clock per year of its age. Key questions to ask include:
The answers to these questions can help you understand how the vehicle's mileage may have affected its condition.
A comprehensive service history is a green flag when you're considering buying a used car. It means that the owner has taken care of the vehicle with regular maintenance and addressed any issues promptly. A lack of service records could be a red flag, making it harder to determine if the owner maintained the car properly. If you're looking at a used car without a complete service history, inquire about any significant repairs or recurring problems. Here are some key questions to ask:
Inspecting the car's interior and exterior is important. Check for any signs of heavy wear and tear, unusual odors, or damage that might be costly to repair. Look for a clean and well-maintained car on the inside and relatively unblemished on the outside. We also recommend considering whether the vehicle's interior aligns with its mileage. It could indicate potential issues if the interior looks heavily used with low mileage. Here are some key things to check for when you're inspecting the car:
Before you decide to buy a used car, take the time to research its ratings and rankings. This helps you identify potential issues with the specific make and model you're interested in. Pay attention to common problems or complaints that other owners have reported. Look for cars that have positive ratings and reviews. This is a great way to establish a car's reliability and overall performance. Here are some key questions to ask:
One of the most critical steps when buying a used car — and we can't emphasize this enough — is taking it for a test drive to assess how the vehicle performs and feels on the road. Stay alert to any unusual sounds, vibrations, or handling issues. Ensure it accelerates, brakes, and steers smoothly. If possible, see how it takes different road conditions. Ideally, the car should offer a smooth and comfortable driving experience.
Running the VIN is a great way to uncover any potential issues with the car you're considering. A VIN report can reveal necessary information about the vehicle's history, such as accidents, title issues, and service records. Avoid cars that have an account of accidents or multiple owners in a short period. Note any discrepancies in the vehicle's title or ownership history. Ideally, you'll find a car with a clean title and consistent ownership.
Buying a used car has many benefits, including cost savings and many options. By considering factors such as mileage and maintenance history and inspecting the vehicle's condition, you can tell how reliable the car will be. We also recommend researching the make and model, taking it for a test drive, and checking the car's VIN report. Following all our recommendations can help you make a wise, informed decision when buying a pre-owned car. If you're looking for a used car you can trust, visit our Planet Ford Dallas dealership to explore our inventory of vetted and reliable used cars.