How To Evaluate A Used Car When You're Not A "Car Person"

Posted on: 12 December 2016

Automobiles are complex pieces of machinery. They have a lot of moving parts, and looking under the hood can seem like you're looking into an alien landscape. However, you don't need to become a mechanic overnight to choose a good used car. Here's how you can evaluate a used car easily.

Look It Up

You can use any of a number of services to run a report on a potential vehicle. Service records can tell you a lot about the car. They can include accident reports and official repairs. The dealer may even have the service records on hand, so feel free to ask.

You should also research the car by make and model. There are tons of websites and forums where people freely talk about specific cars. You may notice patterns, such as a problem that many people complain about. Or, you may find more information on the car that makes you want it even more.

Inspect It

Even if you don't know anything about cars, you should still give it a thorough look. Look for signs of heavy wear and tear. Check both inside and outside the car. Ask questions as you go about it. You don't have to know much about how a motor operates to notice a large patch of rust.

You can have the car independently inspected. You can hire a mechanic to come to the lot and take a look or ask the seller if you can take the car in for an inspection. In either case, you don't have to know much about cars, because you'll have someone who does.

If you don't want to pay for an inspection, ask a friend or family member to join you in looking at the car. If you don't have any mechanically inclined individuals to choose from, just having a second set of eyes can still help.

Drive It

A test drive can teach you a lot about a car. Always try the car before you buy the car. You should even see if you can get away with multiple test drives. Sometimes more becomes apparent at night than during the day. For example, a night drive can let you know if the lights work properly.

When you do test drive the car, don't become all shy. Drive it like you would normally.

  • Make turns
  • Apply the brakes
  • Park
  • Go in reverse

Pay attention to how everything behaves. Even do little things like roll the windows up and down and mess with the locks and other controls.

Looking at the car, researching it, and driving it around should really tell you everything you need to know to make a used car purchase. Choosing a reputable used car seller also goes a long way. In a business where reputation is everything, starting with a reputable dealer will help to put you at ease about your car purchase.