Purchasing a used car used to be fraught with concerns, since it was hard to know the history of any used vehicle you purchased. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. The following three strategies can help you piece together a used car's history so you can purchase with confidence.
#1: Check the recall database
Recalls happen with even the best cars, but you don't want to inherit a problem that a previous owner ignored. You can run the VIN number of the used car through the national database to see if there is a recall for the vehicle. If a recall has been issued for the vehicle, the dealership or seller should be able to provide you with receipts or similar documentation that proves that the recall work has been completed. If you are purchasing from a dealership, they should be willing to sell you the car on the contingency that they complete the work. If you are purchasing from a private seller, contact a certified service center for the vehicle and verify that you can have the recall work completed at no charge before finalizing any purchase.
#2: Ask for a service and accident report
In the old days, you had to depend upon the honesty of the seller when it came to trusting the maintenance, accident, and repair history of the vehicle. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. By purchasing from a CarFax certified car dealership or at least having a CarFax report run on the vehicle, you can find out what work has been done on the car or if it has been in any accidents. This report can turn up hidden issues, but keep in mind it will only show anything that was reported. If the previous owner did maintenance work themselves or if they did not use a repair shop that reports to CarFax, then some information may be missing.
#3: Get an inspection
For the reasons listed above, a mechanic's inspection is still necessary to verify that there are no issues that didn't show up on the report. Some mechanics may provide pre-purchase inspections for free, while others provide this service for a low flat fee. Not only will they check for obvious issues, such as rust or a bent frame, but they will also run diagnostics to make sure the car isn't having any less obvious mechanical issues.
For more help, contact a used car dealer near you.