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What to You Need to Know About Buying a Used Car

BOSS Military Spouses Appreciation Day - Free Vehicle Inspection - U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea - 11 May 2012

Although a used car may initially cost less than a new one, if it has mechanical issues or a title problem you may find yourself spending more money out-of-pocket than you originally planned. If you have never purchased a used car before there are some things to look for that can save you both time and money.

  • Car Insurance
    Check with an insurance agent to find out how much the car insurance will be on the type of vehicle that you wish to purchase. Your insurance rate is not only based on your age and driving record, but is also determined by the type of car you want to buy. Expect to pay a higher premium on sports cars and certain other types of vehicles, especially if they are known for having a poor safety record with the insurance industry.
  • Title
    Ask the seller of the car if they have the physical title to the car and if it is in their name. If you give the seller cash for the car and the title is not clear, you may end up discovering that you do not actually own the vehicle that you believe you just bought.
  • Car Fluids
    Bring a flashlight with you when you go to inspect the used car. Use the flashlight to look underneath the vehicle for signs of leaking fluids. Pay attention to any fluid spots you notice on the ground. Touch the spots to determine if they are wet. If they have an oily feel to them, there may be an oil, break, or transmission leak. If it feels more like water, but has a slight metal smell or there is a green or pink appearance, this may be an indication of a radiator leak.
  • Car Body
    Survey the exterior of the vehicle for body damage. Look for areas on the body that appear uneven. If you tap the uneven area and it does not sound like metal or has a sound that is different than the other parts of the car, this is generally a sign that the vehicle has had repair work done in that area.
  • Under the Hood
    Open the hood and inspect the engine. Although a used engine will not look new, it should have no visible signs of oil leaking. Check belts for cracks and fraying. The belts should look reasonably new and have no sign of dry-rotting. The car battery should show no signs of acid leaking and the terminals should be free of corrosion.
  • Engine Running
    Start the engine of the car. Note whether it started immediately or if the engine had to be coaxed or hesitated when it started. The engine should run smoothly with no unusual noises or sounds. Test the air conditioner, heater and radio to ensure that all are in working order.
  • Test Drive
    Ask to take the car for a test drive. If you are at a car dealership, you may be asked for a copy of your driver’s license and proof of your insurance. In some cases, the salesperson or owner of the car may elect to ride with you. If they don’t, you may wish to drive it to a nearby garage and ask a mechanic to do a quick inspection of the car for you. They can often point out defects or engine problems that you may not have initially noticed.
  • Deanna Ford writes for several insurance blogs. To get cheap Georgia car insurance quotes and compare Tennessee auto insurance rates, check online.

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