A used car can make the most financial sense. Someone else has already experienced the initial depreciation in value that all new cars experience, and they have also likely handled the bulk of the recalls that sometimes affect new cars. You receive the benefit of a car that has been broken in and that costs less than the new option. Before handing over your cash, though, use the following tips to verify that the car is really a good deal.
Tip #1: Check for Interior Damage
Depending on the age of the car, some interior damage is expected. Stains on a seat or thin carpet beneath the driver's seat isn't usually a concern, and these can easily be fixed with a seat cover and floor mat. What you are looking for is major damage. Does the carpet seem loose or is there a smell of mildew in the car? If so, this may be a flood damaged vehicle. Are there major damages to the interior, like cracked dashboards, non-functioning controls, or broken hinges on the glove box? This hints that the car has been used roughly and it may have been just as badly cared for under the hood.
Tip #2: Look for Body Damage
There are several ways to check for major frame damage on a car. A simple way is to check the body for misalignment. Simply sight down each side of the car to make sure it is smooth and the same on both sides. Then, park the car so the tires are straight. Get near the ground and sight along the tires. If they are lined up and not bowed inward or outward, the car is probably fine. Finally, look for grease pencil markings or auto parts stickers on the parts under the hood. If you find these markings, a part has been replaced and you should inquire about the details.
Tip #3: Take It On the Road
Never buy a car unless you have test drove it in both slow-moving city traffic and at higher highway speeds. When driving, turn off the radio so you can hear the car and keep conversation to a minimum. Look, feel, and listen for the following concerns:
- Shaky steering wheel
- Squealing or squishy feeling brakes
- Clunking noises when turning the steering wheel
- Engine lights that come on or gauges that read outside of the normal range
- Any odd rattling noises
- Heavy vibrations felt through the seat
None of these warning signs are necessarily a major problem – sometimes the wheels simply need realigned. But, they are all signs that the car needs to be checked out thoroughly before you close the deal.
To get started on your car search, contact a dealer where you can buy pre-owned Fords and other vehicles in your area.