Don’t Buy A Car In A Vacuum—Know What You’re Getting Into
If you’ve never bought a car before, then it’s a wise move to do your homework beforehand. Know this: if you’re buying from a used car dealer, they may or may not be honest with you.
Sellers of pre-owned vehicles often find issues they weren’t even able to source when they took the cars off the hands of sellers. That’s one reason a used car dealer will under-cut you if you’re trying to do some kind of trade-in. They have to; you’re likely going to cost them money otherwise.
In the same vein, if you’re buying a car from a seller on a site like Craigslist.com, you’re likely to find there’s some issue they don’t want to deal with that is prompting them to sell. Always ask probing questions when you’re buying from an individual seller. Do the same thing at a certified pre-owned reseller. Especially given today’s morally elastic climate, you’ve got to be careful.
You may want to co-opt the internet to help you avoid getting undermined by the Shylocks of the world. At VINCheck.info, you can enter in the VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, of your vehicle. This number is located under the windshield, and on a sticker usually taped to the frame or door on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Things VIN Can Reveal
This VIN has to be scanned whenever a vehicle is brought into a reputable mechanic’s shop. So if the car has been in a wreck, if substantial work has been done, if recurrent issues develop on a regular basis, then that will show up when you do a search. Some things are minor, some are major.
For example, a car that was on the edge of being totaled in a wreck, and was nearly rebuilt from the ground up, will likely have consistent issues that are costly. You can expect the average cost of a component’s acquisition and installation to be around $500.
If you’ve got a water pump that goes out, the component will be between $20 and $200, and man hours to replace it will be between $100 and $300, depending on where the part is located within your vehicle. Some have components in different configurations than others. Like Volkswagens, for example. They’re built very uniquely. When you buy, know what you’ll deal with for repairs and maintenance going forward.
Vehicular Security Systems
Then there’s the security system of your vehicle to consider. Newer cars will have systems that are more advanced than older ones. At the same time, they’re likely to have some level of computer connectivity in an IoT capacity. This could be very good.
If a thief steals your car and you call it in swiftly enough, OnStar could stop the engine and lock the doors, trapping the thief, allowing you to regain your vehicle, and saving the day. At the same time, a hacker could take over your car and drive you into a ditch.
The CIA has had such remote control capacity for years, and there’s some controversy over it. So whether having internet connectivity with the internal computer on your car is a more or less secure thing will in large part depend on your proclivities.
There are also a lot of security accessories you can buy to make your vehicle more utilitarian, and safe. Sometimes a car can be tricked out to be better than it could be if it were strictly transitioned from the factory floor. Sometimes a vehicle that may not strictly be a “deal” becomes one after you augment it.
What Are You Willing To Handle?
Also, it’s important to consider what you’re willing to deal with. For example, if the VIN shows general vehicular homeostasis, but the engine does need a new fuel pump, then you can tell the guy (or car salesman) selling it that you’ll buy, minus the cost of the new component. That could chop $500 from the selling cost, you pay what you intended, you’ve just got to get the work done.
Something else you want to take into account, if you’re a first-time car buyer, is that certain makes, models, colors, and years will be more or less secure. A cherry-red 2015 Mustang is a lot more likely to be stolen than an off-brown Geo-Metro from ‘99. Also, the red car is more likely to get traffic tickets owing to the psychology of traffic officers. Red cars get more tickets.
Going with the minivan that gets good mileage and is a boring color could actually result in a better buy. You’ve got storage, nobody wants to steal it, and you’ll likely get a deal on a dependable vehicle. But it’s also notable that some vehicles are easier to break into than others. Check out this list of the most stolen cars in 2018.
Check Everything Before You Buy
If you’re going to get the best deal on a car, you want to look at multiple vehicles, do your homework on them, check the VIN number, ask why the seller is selling, and lastly, put the vehicle through its test paces. Check the transmission—it should go from drive to reverse quickly; there shouldn’t be a long delay, that’s a sign of a bad tranny.
Check the windows, check the mirrors, check the AC, check the radio, check the brakes, shift gears, work the seats and arm-rests, look into the trunk, check under the hood, crawl under the vehicle to see if the frame is rusted at all. Don’t worry if the seller gets irritated. There’s nothing that says you have to buy.
Always pitch sellers a price a few hundred dollars—or thousand—under what is being asked, too. Even if you don’t end up buying so low, you’ll have to barter back and forth, and you’ll get a better deal. Know whether there’s a web-connective security system, too, and whether it can be deactivated. Do these things, and you’ll get the most secure buy.