Used car buying advice you don’t want to miss

To properly inspect a used car before buying, you’ve got to have the right tools at hand.

While a socket wrench will definitely come in handy if your new purchase needs work after buying, a car history report will be one of your best allies before you lay down your cash.

These reports (also known as vehicle history reports or used car reliability reports) provide a wealth of facts about a vehicle’s past — and give you a clearer idea of what to expect in the future.

Keep in mind, though, that some used car reliability reports are more thorough than others. So, shop around online (search under the term “car history report”) to find the right type of report for your needs. In general, the more information you can obtain, the better (even if you might need to pay a bit more). Popular places to obtain used car reliability reports include CARFAX and AutoCheck.

Used car buyingAnother piece of used car buying advice: ask the seller to provide you with maintenance and repair records for the vehicle. While this information isn’t available in many cases, it can give you a glimpse into how carefully the seller took care of the vehicle.

Comprehensive used car reliability reports contain key types of information.

When trying to inspect a used car before buying, the following types of information are quite helpful:

Title check

Gives you an idea of the title history of car, so you can see how many times the vehicle has changed owners, along with the locations and the dates. A title check can also reveal if the car was ever abandoned, scrapped, rebuilt, salvaged, recalled by the manufacturer, declared a “lemon” by state laws or listed on the grey market.

Odometer check

Indicates possible tampering with the odometer or a malfunctioning of the odometer.

Event check

Tells you how the car was used (for instance, if it was a driver’s ed car, taxi, police cruiser, rental car, leased car, fleet car and more). Also can reveal if the car was ever involved in a serious accident, stolen, or repossessed or failed an emissions test.

How to get a free car history report

You can find a few reputable sources online. Search under “how to get a free car history report” and look through the results. Just be sure your report provides enough quality detailed information to be worthwhile. If not, try another source or two. Otherwise, you’re better off making a small investment and purchasing a comprehensive report.

All in all, perhaps the best overall used car buying advice we can give you is to be prepared. That means researching the vehicle’s past, having a mechanic check out its current condition, and comparison shopping to ensure you’re paying a fair price. Taking the time to inspect a used car before buying is well worth every second as a secondhand car is an investment.

Editor’s note: Once you purchase your car, one of the best ways to keep it in top running condition is with quality auto parts from Advance Auto Parts. To get your order even faster—buy online, pick up in store. In the meantime, check out other installments on used car buying advice, how to get a free car history report, plus other helpful tips, right here in our DIY auto blog.



How to inspect a used car before buying

At one point or another, everyone has used car questions. One of the most common ones is based around how to inspect a used car before buying. In the end, it’s not that difficult, especially if you know what to look out for.

For starters, there are sound, general practices to follow, such as:

  • Take the vehicle for a road test. If possible, travel on a variety of roads — such as residential, country and highway — to get a better feel how the car handles at different speeds and conditions.
  • Purchase a vehicle history report to alert you to indications of flood damage, severe accidents and other red flags.
  • Ask for maintenance and repair records from the seller.

Perhaps the most important used car buying advice we can offer, though, is to hire a mechanic to check the secondhand car.

Used Car Questions Why this piece of used car buying advice is so important:

Unless you’re skilled at spotting potential car trouble, it’s wise to get a mechanic to check a secondhand car.

Sure, this will cost you some money upfront. Most secondhand car inspections are around $100. But, this inspection can save you money, too:

  • If the mechanic identifies weaknesses in the car that need immediate repair, you can use this information to negotiate a lower price with the seller.
  • The mechanic may also see that the vehicle has been poorly maintained, and alert you that you’ll be looking at multiple repair jobs in the near future. Again, you could use this get a better price. Or, you may just want to pass on the car, and save yourself the money and hassle of dealing with a lot of repair work.

Most importantly, if there are major safety issues with the car, an inspection could prevent you from being seriously injured.

Of course, there’s the bright side, too. A glowing report from your mechanic will give you some peace of mind and an extra bit of confidence about your investment.

A mechanic can help answer used car questions even with remote purchases.

Did you know you can get a mechanic to check a secondhand car even if the vehicle isn’t located nearby? Remote mechanic inspection services are available throughout the country.

Here’s how it works.

A mechanic with a mobile unit will go to where the car is located, perform the inspection on the spot and send you a detailed report of the findings. The report will often be accompanied by photos of the vehicle taken from different angles so you can spot any dents, scratches or other imperfections.

With mobile inspections, the mechanic can’t get the vehicle on a lift. So, this report won’t be as detailed. But, even so, a mobile report is well worth the money.

Sometimes a seller (local or remote) won’t allow a mechanic to inspect the car. What should you do in those cases?

The smart move is to walk away. It’s entirely reasonable to ask for an inspection. After all, you’re considering a major investment. If a seller refuses the inspection, it’s probably because of what you might find out from the report.

Editor’s note: We hope you’ve found this installment on how to inspect a used car before buying helpful. Visit an Advance Auto Parts store for a wide selection of quality auto parts for all makes and models. 

Is there a best time of year to buy a used car?

If you ask your next-door neighbor, a co-worker and a close friend the question “When is the best time of year to buy a used car?” you’ll probably get three different answers.

That’s because—unlike what you may have heard—there really isn’t a single best time.

Used car questionsEven in the new car market, there are several theories around the peak times to look for deals. Some will say to shop late in the month, early in the week, near closing time, on rainy days, during holiday periods or at the end of the year.

While some of these may contain a little truth, there isn’t much solid evidence behind any of them. (Besides, dealerships have heard all these rumors, too.) And that’s even truer for secondhand car sales.

Do you still want to know the best time of year to buy a used car? The answer is: after you’ve done your homework.

Find out the book values of the secondhand cars you like, shop around online and in person to locate the most affordable prices and learn some practical negotiating tips.

Taking these measures will save you more than waiting for some magical (and mythical) “best time.”

Used car buying advice: wondering what to look for in your vehicle?

What type of used car questions should you ask when buying a previously owned vehicle? What should you have investigated? Here’s some used car buying advice:

  • Have a mechanic inspect the vehicle before buying
  • Take the car for a test drive (travel on routes with different speed limits and terrain types, if possible)
  • Ask if there’s any type of warranty
  • Know the Lemon Laws for your state
  • Closely check the exterior and interior for obvious and “hidden” signs of damage (including water and fire)
  • Inspect the trunk
  • Ask for repair records
  • Order a car history report
  • Consider your financing options before visiting the seller
  • Do your homework and be ready to negotiate

Use this as a starting point for used car buying advice. After doing your own research, you’ll get a better understanding of what to look for.

Keep in mind that many financial experts recommend purchasing a previously owned car, especially because of the fast depreciation associated with new vehicles. But, that only works in your favor if you buy a secondhand car that’s safe and reliable.

Editor’s note: Keep checking the Advance DIY auto blog for more tips on buying used cars. After you’ve purchased your car, rely on Advance Auto Parts for the quality auto parts needed to keep it running right. Shop online, or stop by any of our auto parts stores for friendly, expert advice.