What should I look for when shopping for a used car?

What should I look for when shopping for a used car?

Shopping for a used car is like every other shopping you’ll do in life, but without the coupons. Well, kinda. Regardless, you’ll get the most for your time, effort, money, and stress by forming a clear plan of what you’re looking for. Let’s start there!

Most (but not all) people want the basics: a car that runs, that isn’t stolen, and doesn’t catch on fire. Here are some more considerations that most people think about:

  • How much, including immediate repairs, are you willing to spend to buy the car in the short term? Be sure to consider taxes and title, as well as money for a used car check at Schummer’s Auto.
  • How much money do you have budgeted annually for maintenance? Less money upfront might mean higher costs down the road.
  • How many doors and seats, and how much storage does it need to have?
  • How far are you willing to drive to get it?
  • When do you need it by, and how much time do you have to look around?
  • What others features do you want, or is there a certain make or model you’re looking for?

If you want a tiny city car, two doors, minimal storage, and your budget is $3,000 then you might find a few cars. But, what annual costs are you willing to pay? Can you wait a few months to find a great deal, or do you need the car for work soon? Can you save up a little more for the initial purchase to save yourself thousands over the next three years? Are you willing to drive 300 miles for a cheaper price? The clearer your plan, the easier this will be. So set your parameters, and start looking.

Where to Buy

Used Car Dealers. Most used car dealers shine up auction cars and flip them as fast as possible. To quote Donald Trump,”When the auction sells its cars, they’re not selling their best. They’re selling cars that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those bad cars to you. They’re bringing rust. They’re bringing flood damage. They’re junkers. And some, I assume, are good vehicles.” Seriously, though: you never know what you’ll get, and dealers often don’t know what’s wrong with the cars they sell. If a deal seems really, really good it might be because they’re trying to move it for a reason. Be wary.

Private Sellers. (eg Craigslist) can be hit or miss. Ask for repair/maintenance records. No records = poorly maintained car or worse. If you’re going this route, make sure you get the vehicle checked out by us, so plan on staying close to home and paying a little more. Did you find a car that’s $1000, but you have to drive 200 miles to get it? Thinking about buying it without a professional opinion, since you can’t ‘test drive’ it back to Philly? Is the seller’s face really trustworthy? I mean, really? Think long and hard.

Certified Pre-owned Cars from a dealer are always a safe choice. You usually pay a fair price, and you’ll get a car that won’t immediately come with a big repair bill. You probably don’t need it checked out, since that’s part of the certification process. While it is usually a more expensive option, you are actually buying something: predictability and reliability.

What to Buy

But first, a different question: who writes these blog posts, with their crisp prose and their subtle jokes? Do the mechanics harbor literary ambitions? As a matter of fact, there is a web master who shines up these mechanic-penned posts like Kurt Russell shines up a repossessed Pinto. Sadly, for some things, there is no hope.

Just trust him! Kurt Russell, selling quality used cars.

Just trust him! Kurt Russell, selling quality used cars.

Here’s one: Nick’s highly prejudiced rant about what small cars to buy.

Nick says: “As for models, Toyota’s are tops. Honda’s are second best. Subaru’s are cheap and popular but usually money pits in the long term. Don’t by a Chrysler. Just don’t. Ditto with Kia’s. Ford makes great trucks and SUV’s, and their newer city cars (like the Fiesta) get great reviews, just don’t buy an old Taurus. Hyundai’s are hit-or-miss depending on mileage and maintenance. It’s easy to spend over $1500 or more on neglected maintenance (brake system, timing belt, cooling issues) but a well maintained Hyundai can be a good deal. Some General Motors cars will try and kill you, some are OK. Some are repackaged Daewoo’s. Saturn went bankrupt and their ‘cars occasionally kill people (they were part of GM after all) so don’t buy one of those. If it has a GM badge it’s a crap shoot.”

Also,

“If you come across a Pontiac Vibe cheap, snatch it up, because it’s really a Toyota Matrix with a Pontiac badge marketed to racists who hate foreign cars and don’t know how to use Google to see what they’re buying.” Words of wisdom, indeed.

Next Steps

So there you have it! The keys to a good car buying experince? Know what you want to get out of the car, including brand and maintenance needs. Know what you’re willing to give, such as money and time spent searching.

And unless you plan on buying certified pre-owned, get it checked! If a used car dealer or private seller won’t let you take it to your mechanic to be checked before buying, walk away. It’s a BIG red flag, and something is probably wrong and expensive. Would you buy a house without having a certified Home Inspector check it out first? Oh no you wouldn’t! We do used car checks at Schummer’s Auto for just $75, which can save you thousands in the long run. Call us with an hour’s notice, and you won’t even have to wait.

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19 COMMENTS

  • Tyler Johnson
    September 13, 2019, 6:18 pm REPLY

    I agree that certified pre-owned cars from a dealer sound good. I would want to make sure that if I buy a car that it will work for a long time. I’ll have to make sure to look for some of those when I decide to buy my next car.

  • Braden Bills
    November 7, 2019, 3:49 pm REPLY

    It’s time for me to get a new car. I’ve heard that used cars can be really inexpensive compared to new ones, so I want to see if I can get one. It makes sense that I would want to find a dealer that specializes in used cars! That seems like a great way to ensure that I have options to choose from.

  • Tristan Stewart
    December 10, 2019, 12:50 am REPLY

    It’s really helpful that you named some brands that are great values when you purchase a used car. I think that it’s important to choose a car that will last a long time with the least amount of maintenance and repairs. My son has been working hard lately so we will chip in and try to get him a car he can drive to highschool.

  • Carz for Auto
    December 19, 2019, 7:56 am REPLY

    Excellent working in Future I want to use your words because this blog wording is very useful for car lovrs

  • Carz for Auto
    December 20, 2019, 10:00 am REPLY

    Best work Wonderful work
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