Regardless where you buy your first car from, if it’s used, make sure to get it inspected by an independent mechanic or service center that specializes in the brand you want. One of the most expensive lessons you can learn in life is to finance a used car with loads of problems under the hood.
Think of it this way. If the car you’re buying is “pre-enjoyed,” it has a story to tell. You need to know that story before you’re paying monthly for a car that you can’t even drive. The good news is, once you find this mechanic that specializes in your favorite car brand, you’ll be able to go back to them again and again for your excessive amount of maintenance.
In all seriousness, it doesn’t matter if you’re buying a used Honda, Land Rover, or Ferrari. You need to know what you’re getting into before you sign the papers.
But don’t worry. Before you blow your money on an inspection, check the basics. Make sure the VIN on the car matches the VIN on the CarFax or Autocheck. I know it sounds simple, but shady dealers are all about building trust quickly. If they can achieve that, you’ll miss small details. Also be sure to check for tire wear, brakes, paint imperfections, and fluids under the car.
On top of that, be sure to check the exterior for damage. Even if a car has been repaired from an accident, it’s easy to tell if it’s been botched. Check for unusual panel gaps, unless you’re buying a Tesla. In that case, check for normal panel gaps. That’s a huge sign the Tesla has been crashed.
REALLY DO YOUR RESEARCH
I get it, we’ve all been looking for our next car and watched every single video about the car we can find, but be careful when it comes to large media outlets and their reviews of cars. I’m not saying they don’t provide good information – they do, but search out owner reviews as well. They’ll tell you the parts you won’t want to hear if you’re only focused on how cool you’ll feel driving the car.
Make sure to do in-depth research on the car you’re buying, and if possible, look for videos talking about long-term usage and how well the car has held up. Luxury cars and sports cars often get more expensive to maintain over time. That’s why most owners get rid of them so quickly and why repairs get delayed.
It’s great to think about how cool you’ll look driving the car and how it’ll make you feel, but don’t forget how you’ll feel when you’re standing at the reception desk of the service center forking over thousands of dollars for spark plugs, fuel injectors, coils, control arm bushings, an alignment, brakes, and rotors all at once. And then while paying have to hear them tell you your air strut needs to be watched for a leak.
READ DEALER REVIEWS ONLINE
This next tip may seem like a simple one, but it’s one that you can easily forget about if you randomly come across your favorite car on a lot while driving down the road. Before you ever agree to buy the car from that dealership, make sure you know how ethical the dealership is.
Let’s face it. A dealership is a business, and the salesman is NOT your friend. They’re there to make a profit and move on. Never think for a second the dealer is going to lose money by selling you a car. It’s the same as thinking a casino is going to lose money by paying out to a winner. The house always wins.
But some places are more ethical than others. It’s easy to spot out buy here pay here lots that are shady, but what’s more difficult is uncovering the truth to dealerships that have everything in check on the surface. Read what other people are saying about a place on Google and Facebook, and be careful for fake reviews. A lot of dealerships have been known to have fake reviews to hide horrible negative reviews.
AVOID THE DREAM CAR
I hate to be the one to say it, because I certainly did not follow this rule. But take my advice from my experience. Don’t buy your dream car just because you can get it cheap. If it’s a couple years old and has already lost half of it’s value, there’s a reason. As much as I love BMW, their lineup depreciates quickly.
There’a s lot of reasons for car depreciation. From basic supply and demand to more comprehensive reasons like bad ownership experience, a car can depreciate for a ton of reasons. But it also comes down to something simple.
Owners who can afford the car new will trade the car quickly when a new model comes out. Because of that, there’s an influx in the used market where people then buy them for a cheaper price. After a while, those owners realize they don’t want to pay these ridiculous maintenance costs for an older car. So the cycle continues until the model is cheap enough for first time car buyers.
Because of that, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of buying your dream car at 16, but be careful. It’s cheap for a reason. Yeah, you can certainly get a great deal on a depreciated car if you follow the rest of the steps, but sometimes being too good to be true is very real.