Beyond Mileage: How to Know the History of a Used Car

August 10th, 2015 by

Some used cars are total gems. Their owners stuck to the maintenance schedule without fail and kept every last receipt along the way. The mileage is low, the paint job is pristine, and the upholstery looks untouched.

But some used cars are lemons. They might look OK, but over time, you find out that they are riddled with problems. You’ll end up spending thousands on repairs, and the car will never run the way you need.

There are several ways that you can protect yourself to make sure that you don’t end up with a lemon. The first and most important is to shop reputable used car dealerships in Lexington, KY, such as Dan Cummins Chevrolet.

Many people next look at the mileage of the vehicle to determine how much it has been driven on average in its life span, with lower mileage combined with longer years representing a healthier vehicle. While this is a good rule of thumb, mileage is not the only indicator of vehicle health.

Here are several things you can do to learn more about the true condition of a used vehicle to know if it is a good buy:

Check the Vehicle History Report

Every vehicle has a unique identifying number, which can be used to trace its history. By looking up a vehicle history report, you can learn if a vehicle has been in an accident (or multiple accidents), if it has a salvage title, if it is currently under lien, or if it has been involved in any illegal activities.

Checking the vehicle history report is especially important before you buy a used vehicle. The car may run great, and it may look perfect, but it may be hiding major structural defects caused by a previous accident.

Those defects can weaken it in future accidents and put you and your family at serious risk. Knowing the accident history of a car can help you better understand its condition.

A vehicle history report will also tell you if the vehicle has a lemon title, which means that it has been identified as chronically problematic. These cars are illegal to sell, but an individual or unethical dealer may try to sell one anyway.

It’s just another reason to only shop well-known and respected used car dealerships in Lexington, KY.

Ask for Maintenance Records

If you shop for cars on the secondary market instead of from used car dealerships, you’ll be taking a bit of a risk. In addition to checking the vehicle history report, you can protect yourself by asking the owner for maintenance records, such as a service log or copies of receipts.

This information will show you exactly how well the vehicle has been cared for and what kinds of problems it has experienced, if any.

Owners who have maintenance records to show typically take better care of their vehicles. If you are able to get these records, you can not only glean more information about the vehicle, but you can feel more confident in the quality of it.

Buying a used car with knowledgeHave It Inspected

A thorough inspection can tell you more about a car than just about any other metric. If you are considering buying a car from an individual, ask if you can take the car for an inspection before you commit. Most should say yes if they have a quality vehicle to sell.

If you are considering buying a car from a dealership, you should have a certain time frame in order to inspect the car and return it if you like.

Ask your mechanic to check out everything under the hood, as well as the frame and the body. A quality mechanic will be able to uncover lingering problems with the engine or mechanics and can identify weaknesses in the frame caused by previous accidents.

Ask for an overall inspection, and ask for specific information that might be concerning to you. For example, if you had a similar make and model before that had problems with the alternator, you might ask the mechanic to check on the alternator specifically.

Research the Make and Model

Some vehicles have a reputation for having certain problems. With a little research, you might find out that the car you are considering buying had a lot of reports of a faulty starter or transmission troubles. Your research should also reveal any recalls that have been issued for the vehicle.

Many vehicles will have experienced at least one recall or have a handful of reports about consumer issues. But if you find that there is a history of problems with a particular make and model, it might indicate a larger problem with the quality of that vehicle’s design or materials.

It might be enough that you should start looking at other vehicle options instead.

Look for Signs of Replacements

Shoddy repairs or after-market work can impair the functionality or safety of a car, as well as make it look bad. Some of these can be easily spotted. Look for panels that are discolored when compared to the rest of the car.

Look for parts that seem to stand out as not in style with the rest of the car, such as a retro-looking bumper on a car with a more modern design. Look for parts that have been poorly assembled or attached, such as loose connections or bumpy soldering.

If you aren’t sure what to look for, this is another job you can task with your mechanic. A good mechanic will be able to spot the replacement issues quickly and let you know if they pose a safety problem or are just cosmetic.

Check for Engine Modifications

Some used cars may appear to run perfectly well, but they may have a history of being abused that shortens their life. For example, a car may have been used for street racing at one point, and that makes it engine weaker and puts it at risk for all kinds of mechanical problems.

This is the kind of history you won’t find on a vehicle report. However, you can find evidence of this kind of activity by uncovering engine modifications. You’ll have to ask your mechanic to look for this specifically.

Your mechanic will only tell you about problems if you just ask for an inspection. Modifications aren’t necessarily a sign of a problem, so your mechanic may not tell you about them unless you ask specifically for this kind of information.

Evaluating the quality of a used car is about much more than checking out the mileage and taking a test drive. To truly know whether you are getting a great buy or are about to sink your money into a lemon, you should follow these steps to closely evaluate the vehicle and learn all the information about it that you can.

Dan Cummins Chevrolet is proud to enjoy a reputation as one of the best used car dealerships in Lexington, KY. We inspect every vehicle we sell before we put it on our lot, and we guarantee the highest quality in our wide selection.

When you shop with us, you can feel confident that you are getting the best you can buy for your money.