A Guide to Buying a Used Car Online
There is no shortage of used cars Lexington, KY, especially ones for sale online. While websites like Craigslist have made finding, selling, and buying cars a lot easier, it’s also created some new risks. First and foremost, you don’t know what you are getting until you actually get there. This means that you could very well be looking at a car that’s covered in rust on one side, but taken from an angle that hides it and makes it picture worthy. The only thing you know about the car is what you read about in the ad; and some people aren’t very honest.
With that being said, here’s a guide on buying a used car online; and how not to get ripped-off in the process.
Before you even begin looking at cars online, you need to get yourself in the proper mindset. Sadly, it’s safer to be a skeptic. While browsing through ads, it’s important to be as inquisitive as possible. Does the picture look like it’s trying to hide something? If not, then why am I only seeing the front of the vehicle? Does that mileage make sense for the year of the car?
Don’t be afraid to call or e-mail with any questions you have, that’s why the private seller puts their number or e-mail up there. If there’s no way to contact them, then just look at the next car. A private seller who doesn’t want to be contacted unless you drive out to see the car is a lost cause, because that lends me to believe they aren’t willing to work with you/trying to hide something.
Because of this, it’s also important to shop local. I’m not saying you need to stay in your town or city; but 2-3 hours out should be about as far as you should go. Why? The main reason is the risk of breaking down. If you end up driving 6 hours north to buy a great car, then on the trip back it blows a head gasket 2 hours in; you are left with 4 hours of travel time back home with a junk car.
The fact of the matter is, you are still buying a used car, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Because with used cars, anything can happen anytime.
Stick With What You Know
Based on personal experience, I can’t stress this enough: stick with what you know. If you need to buy a used car, and owned a vehicle that treated you well over the years, look for that one again. That means if you owned a Silverado, but now have the itch to buy a European sportster like a BMW; don’t scratch it. You’ll open up a whole new can of worms with that one. Why? If you are buying a used car privately, chances are you know at least the basics of working on a car; but you aren’t an expert. Therefore, if you are comfortable with/understand those Chevys, then don’t change now. The difference between working on a European model and an American model is vastly different, and most of the basics you knew will go out the window.
It can be an opposite situation, too. If the previous model you owned gave you all sorts of trouble, then maybe look for another model. At that point, it’s just a necessary risk looking for a different brand.
Be Prepared to Get Dirty
After you’ve found a car you want to go see, be prepared to get dirty. Even if the stars did align, and allowed you to find this gem of a car, you still need to keep that skeptical mindset; and don’t get to excited. If you found the perfect used car, you are going to be eager to jump in and bring it home. But, before you do that, you need to get down and dirty and inspect it. Check underneath the car; how’s the rust? Are there any significant cracks on the axle/frame? Look under the hood, how does the engine look? Is there any grime or debris around it? Does it look like it was well taken care of?
On top of asking yourself all these questions, make sure to check the oil, transmission fluid, belts, that it doesn’t have a radiator leak, and all the lights work. Essentially, you want to check everything that the ad said was repaired or new, and then check every other important part of a vehicle. This is the only way of protecting your wallet and yourself on the drive home, so make sure it’s a thorough inspection.
Make sure to take it for a test drive, and if the owner doesn’t want you to, then pass on the deal While it might look good sitting there, it could have some serious issues that only appear after the car has warmed up and starts moving. Actually, if you show up and the vehicle doesn’t match the advertisement in any way; it’s better just leave without even inspecting it. This means you are dealing with a shady seller, and don’t want to get involved in that. If they lied about something harmless like a crack in the leather seat, what else could they lie about?
Make Sure the Paperwork is In Order
When buying a used car, you’ll typically need more than just a title transfer. Most states require a bill of sale, VIN number, and odometer reading as well. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you have all of the paperwork before leaving with your new used car; and that the title is clean.
This is especially important. Make sure the title has no liens, which means the lender still has there claws in the vehicle, and that the vehicle doesn’t have a shaky history. Typically, it’s better to transfer the title in the seller’s state to your name first. This way, your local DMV can’t give you a hard time when they ask you for the required paperwork after you’ve brought the car home.
Overall, having the required paperwork is crucial for yours/the sellers protection when the transaction goes down. Without it, problems could arise on either end.
Finally, Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away
I can’t stress this enough, either: don’t be afraid to walk away. If you get an uneasy feeling or see any red flags with a used car, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to bargain. There might be a spot of harmless surface rust on the quarter panel; take advantage of that. Say “I would pay the original price, but now I need to pay someone to paint over that, and I didn’t see it in the photos or advertisement online.” You’d be surprised how easy it is when it comes to knocking someone down a couple hundred bucks if they decided to hide something from you.
It all boils down to just shopping smart. Don’t get too excited and jump into a bad deal, be skeptical and cautious, and always make sure to avoid buying a car with a vague ad. If you shop smart for a used car online now, you will be thanking yourself later.