Used Car Buyer's Guide | 5 Simple Steps for Success


Buying used is one of the smarter choices financially when it comes to car shopping for many reasons. The main one being that a car depreciates at a much faster rate in the beginning of its life, so buying used after these initial years have passed allows savvy buyers to skip out on these increased costs while not taking on too much risk. This is all dependent on being able to do your due dilligence to ensure that the car is in good condition and has a solid history, however.

It is this process of picking out a quality used car that meets all of your needs and preferences that is the difficult part. While dealerships have just about every new model stocked with multiple vehicles in excellent condition, it is more rare to find a specific model from a specific year in the exact condition that you want.

Many sellers try to hide underlying problems with quick fixes or shady tactics, so it can be a scary world as a car buyer. That is why Volvo Mission Viejo is here to help you find exactly what you want and make sure that you are getting a good deal on a car that won't die on you - in just 5 easy steps.
 
1) RESEARCH CARS
Whether you are buying new or preowned, everyone buys cars for different reasons so one person's dream car can be another's last choice. Whether you value performance, safety, cargo space, reliability, or any other factor, you must find out which cars fit your needs and preferences perfectly.

Checking out multiple online reviews as well as manufacturer's websites are good places to start. This will save you plenty of time at the dealership looking at cars that wouldn't work and allows you to be more informed.

Once you have narrowed it down to a few different models, the next step is to do research into various dealerships' used car inventories online. Normally these sites are very up to date and can give you a good idea of whether its worth it to check out the inventory in person or go somewhere else.

 
2) GET A VIN HISTORY REPORT
Probably the most important step in the process is ensuring that you do a full VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) check on the vehicle you are interested in purchasing. These reports will tell you relevant information that will greatly impact the vehicle's price such as the accident history, damage reports, number of previous owners, service history, title history, mileage, and more.

All of these factors alone have a significant influence, but when combined together these factors strongly determine the general condition of the car and its current value.

 
3) TEST DRIVE THE CARS
Now that you've found the car of your dreams and looked up its VIN history report to confirm it isn't stolen or salvaged, the fun part is here! Talk to the seller about taking your picks out for a spin to make sure that they run smoothly and fit your driving style. It is important to drive multiple cars to find the one that is just right for you - all cars drive differently!

When out on the road, make sure to pay attention to different aspects of the drive to get a solid impression of whether it's the right car for you. Some things we recommend you focus on include:

  • Interior: Are you comfortable sitting down? Is there enough room in the front AND back seats? Can you see properly through all windows and mirrors? Is the technology sufficient and working?
  • Acceleration: Does the car accelerate quickly and smoothly? Can you make it up steep hills and merge onto freeways without problems? Is the engine loud or clunky?
  • Braking: Try applying the brakes with different levels of force. They should be responsive but not too sensitive. Much of this is preference, however good brakes will apply smooth and gradually.
  • Steering: Much like braking, steering should be applied smooth and gradually; quick enough that you can react safely to anything on the road, but not so reactive that the slightest hand movements require corrections.
  • Suspension: Does the car drive comfortably? Does it feel sturdy when driving over bumpy roads or potholes? Does it feel shaky?

 
4) HAVE A MECHANIC INSPECT THE CAR
While a VIN history report is highly informative in learning about the history and condition of the car, it is very much recommended that you get the used vehicle inspected by a mechanic.

A deep-dive into the inside of the car can tell a lot in terms of issues that wouldn't necessarily show up on a VIN report. Examples of possible hidden problems include poor repair work, rusting, or a poorly serviced engine among other things.

While many car buyers don't want to pay the extra money or spend the time to go through with an inspection, we promise that you will highly regret it if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself stuck with a vehicle needing thousands of dollars in repairs.

 
5) CHECK FOR WARRANTIES
All used car dealerships (that sell 6 or more used cars in a year) by law MUST display a buyers guide with every car put up for sale. The buyers guide contains information regarding any warranties that are applicable to the sale of that vehicle.

As a used car buyer, it is your duty to be aware of the condition of the vehicle and the expected amount of time until major repairs or service will be needed. This is because used cars can be sold "As-Is", which means that there is no warranty or coverage offered after the sale, or they can be sold with varying amounts of protection.

So, if a vehicle you are considering purchasing is going to need work done on it fairly soon and is coming As-Is without any coverage, you will need to evaluate how much you would expect to spend and if it still fits your budget.

Buying a used car can be an intimidating process, surely with more risk and uncertainty than with new cars, but as long as you do your homework and follow these 5 simple steps it's really no problem! What's most important is that you go into this process as informed and prepared as possible because knowledge is power.

If you are a resident of Orange County, we highly recommend that you come down to Volvo Mission Viejo to take a look at our large used car inventory, where we are 100% transparent about the condition of our vehicles! Or you can take a look at our great brand new Volvo inventory if you want to have the first experience with your car.

No matter what you're looking for, we will do everything that we can to help you in your search because we won't be happy until you are.
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