Buying used cars can be a great purchase. Pre-owned vehicles can save you money over the cost of a new vehicle and, when purchased from a reputable dealer, are often dependable. But they can also be nightmares. Private sellers have a lot at stake in selling their vehicle, and some use subterfuge to increase the value. Here are some red flags to consider during a vehicle purchase.
The Title is Questionable
The title is one of the most important documents to consider when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle. The title is the document that is used to verify who the rightful owner of the car is. If the title the seller produces is printed on odd paper or has smudge marks, or it doesn’t have the same name as the supposed owner, there’s a possibility that the title is fake or the car is stolen. This is also possible if the seller can’t produce the title. Never buy a car with a title you aren’t sure about or no title at all.
The VINs Don’t Match
It is a good idea when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle to check the VINs, the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Numbers, on both the dashboard of the vehicle and the door. Different agencies keep track of a vehicle’s history with its VIN. If the VINs don’t match, some parts of the vehicle are not original. This could mean that the vehicle has been in an accident or is stolen. Ask the seller why the numbers don’t match and for verification of accidents.
The Seller Wants to See Their Mechanic
When buying a pre-owned vehicle, you should always have the vehicle inspected. Be suspicious if a seller insists on a particular mechanic or refuses to allow you to have the vehicle inspected. A seller might want a friend to inspect the car, in order to leverage the deal in their favor. Insist on having it inspected by a mechanic you trust.
There are Signs of Water Damage
Does the vehicle have new seat or floor covers? Are there waterlines in the vehicle? Do parts of the body have rust? Is the paint spotty or new? These are all possible indicators of water damage, which can wreck havoc on used cars. Even minor water damage can increase the chances of the body or the engine developing rust.
There are Leaks
Sometimes leaks are minor, especially in places with highly variable temperatures. But leaks can also indicate major problems with a vehicle’s engine. If you see brown spots beneath the vehicle, from small dots to puddles, ask the seller what is causing them.
Used cars can be a great investment. Don’t get caught off-guard by hidden problems with your vehicle. Get as much information as you can from a seller about the vehicle, and null the deal if anything seems suspicious. Buying from a reputable dealer or dealership would save you much of this hassle. Dealerships do comprehensive physical and mechanical inspections of all vehicles they put on their lots. They have extensive experience buying and selling vehicles. Feel confident when purchasing your used car, wherever you choose to buy.