Buying an older car can be a great financial decision. Many older vehicles have been well taken care of and are very reliable. An older car means spending much less money, avoiding a large amount of debt or perhaps avoiding a car payment altogether. Plus, your car insurance premium will usually be lower with an older car than a new one. While buying an older car can be a solid financial decision, there are still special considerations to keep in mind. Here are five things to do when purchasing an older vehicle:
Run a Vehicle Background Check
Never purchase a used car without running an official vehicle background check. The background check should show the vehicle's entire history, including any accidents and major repairs.
If you are purchasing the used vehicle from a dealership, they will most likely run a vehicle history report for you at no additional cost. If purchasing from a private seller, you will probably need to ask them to provide you with the car's VIN number so that you can then pay for a vehicle background check yourself.
Have the Car Inspected
Don't just trust the seller's account of what great condition the car is in. You need to have the car inspected by an unbiased mechanic. This means turning down any offers from the dealership or private seller to have their mechanic inspect the car for you and taking it to an independent repair shop.
Some things your mechanic should be on the lookout for include body condition, suspension issues, fluid levels, and hoses and belts that are in working order.
Determine if the Timing Belt Has Been Replaced
One item many car owners aren't aware of is that the timing belt should be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Timing belts do not usually give any obvious signs that they need to be replaced, which is why it's important to be proactive about replacing them in an older car. If the timing belt breaks, it can cause the entire engine of your car to shut down, creating a potentially very expensive and dangerous problem.
If the seller claims that the timing belt has been replaced, ask to have a copy of the receipt. If it has not been replaced and the car has more than 60,000 miles on it, you should factor the price of a new timing belt into the overall cost of the vehicle.
Research the Model and Year
It's critical to research the specific model and year of the car you're considering buying. This is because even if a car has a great reputation overall, there may have been some exceptions in the past. A good place to start is by simply searching the internet for the make, model, and year of the vehicle and seeing what turns up as far as consumer reviews and feedback go. From there, it's important to look up the safety ratings for the car.
Test Drive It
Research and inspecting the vehicle are important, but you won't have a real feel for how the car drives until you get behind the wheel. Be sure to drive the car at a variety of speeds, ideally taking it up to at least 60 mph, since some problems will not be obvious at lower speeds. Be on the lookout for any unusual noises as well as shaking or vibrating sensations. The car should shift smoothly and the brakes should be responsive and not feel stuck at any point.
By following these steps, you can snag a great used vehicle and avoid buying a lemon that will only cost you an arm and leg down the road.