Meadowlands Used Cars: 7 Steps to Follow When Purchasing a Used Car
CNW Market Research reveals 38,276,140 used cars were purchased in 2015 and 41,250,000 the year prior in the US. These high figures show that buying a used car in the US has become commonplace, and that, chances are, you or someone you know have gone through the sales process. While a used car sells for a fraction of its original cost (compared to new cars), it is important that you follow some practical steps in order to know that your car you are now driving is safe—especially when buying from a private party. Still, the process can be confusing: what should you look for in a used car? Should you take it for an inspection by a third-party mechanic? To help you out with this, Meadowlands Used Cars has created a list of simple steps for you to follow so that you are happy with your new purchase. Since that a car is a large investment, we want you to get the most bang for your buck.
Step 1: Assess What the Car Will Be Used For
Basically, what do you need the used car for? Make a list of features you cannot live without as well as ones that are deal breakers (e.g. flood damage, salvage title, etc.).
Circle or highlight your top 3-5 needed features and deal breakers—these are non-negotiables. Doing this will help speed up the car buying process, wasting less time spent inspecting a car you’d otherwise never would have. To get you started on your list, answer these questions:
- What do you need your car for?
- Do you need it for your commute?
- How long is your commute?
- Do you need it to get from Point A to Point B, around town?
- Is it for your child (who recently received his/her license)?
If you need the car for an hour-long (or more) weekly commute, we recommend that you narrow your search, focusing on cars with a low odometer reading and good gas mileage. (Consider a used hybrid vehicle such as our Certified Pre-Owned 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid or Certified Pre-Owned 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.)
If it is to get around town, you still want a good gas mileage and low odometer, but this probably won’t be as high of a selling point for you, compared weekly commuters. If the used car is for your child, safety and reliability will be a much bigger issue.
Step 2: Research the Make and Model of the Car
Let’s face it, not all cars are built the same. For that reason, it is important that you conduct research on the make and model of the car you are looking into to ensure you are purchasing a reliable and safe vehicle that will last years. Sites, like Kelly Blue Book, are great tools to use to help you with your search.
Insider Tip: Look at the Cars Around You
Make a mental inventory of the makes and models of cars you see on the road when you are driving. Do you notice that that you see some models more than others or several cars made by the same manufacturer? If you notice you are seeing the same make and model of a car repeatedly, perhaps you should look into it?
In general, if you see the same newer model of a car on the road, you can get a general sense that this car is selling. More older models on the road imply that this car is reliable. (According to US News & World Report, the Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid earned a five-out-of-five reliability score.)
Step 3: See if the Car Has Been Recalled
Several cars and car parts have been recalled throughout the years, making it hard to keep track of. To see if the used car you are looking into has any recalled parts or that the model itself has been recalled, go to safecar.gov (run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and type in the vehicle identification number (VIN).
The search will give you a list safety recalls that have been conducted over the last 15 years, as well as safety recalls that are incomplete (meaning, the owner should follow recall instructions to remedy the situation.
(Know though that the VIN recall lookup may not give you a complete list of safety recalls, recalls that have passed the 15-year mark, and very new recalls. Also, know that, certain car parts for that make or model may be recalled in the future — for this reason, it is best to regularly look up the NHTSA monthly recall report, which features all safety defects and non-compliance notices.)
Step 4: Get a Vehicle History Report
Vehicle history reports, at the minimum, give you an idea of what that car has been through. It will tell you important information such if the car has been in a flood, fire, or accident, as well as if it was stolen and recovered. Other information the vehicle report will have includes odometer reading, service and ownership history, and the title (e.g. clear title, salvage title, rebuilt/reconstructed title, dismantled title, or junk title). Normally, individual reports cost roughly around $10-$40. And, some vehicle history report companies will provide more (or less) records so getting a report from a reliable company, such as Carfax, is a must. We recommend that you do this step before taking the used car to a third-party mechanic for inspection, as you may find information in the report that makes you want to bypass it, saving you the additional car inspection cost.
Step 6: Get the Car Inspected by a Reliable Mechanic
Mechanics have undergone an extensive amount of vehicle training. Their car knowledge can help you determine if the car is safe and reliable, or if there is wear and tear that wasn’t disclosed or the previous owner had no knowledge of. According to the DMV, mechanics should inspect the frame, glass, lights, brakes, suspension, radiator, belts, fluids, hoses, condition of body, battery, exterior surface, and tires. Also, they (as well as we at East Coast Toyota) recommend that inspection should involve a road test and computerized engine analysis to rule out any potential issues. Depending on what the results are, you could be on your way to buying the used car, or using the information from the inspection to negotiate a better price for it. Overall, if it passes the vehicle history report with flying colors, take the car to a reliable auto repair shop for a vehicle inspection.
Don’t Forget to do a Personal Car Inspection
You should also do a personal car inspection. At the end of the day, even if the vehicle history report and mechanic’s car inspection checks out, you need to feel comfortable behind the wheel of the car. Some pointers to look out for when conducting a personal car inspection include: odd engine noises, wear of tires, doors not properly aligning, flood or fire damage, foul or unusual odors, repair work gone poorly, leaks, and cracked glass. You’ll be able to recognize most of these issues, even if you don’t know that much about cars.
Ways to Spot Flooding Damage
Be on the lookout for flooding damage, as some flood damaged cars may quickly be salvaged and flipped without the new title. One indicator that the car you are looking into may have been in a flood is the where the car was original from. Normally, cars are transported miles and miles from their original location after the storm. Also, look out for poorly functioning electronics and a white-ish residue on the interior or exterior of the car. If you suspect flood damage, we recommend that you don’t purchase the car. If you do, flood-damaged issues that lay dormant for years will eventually come up, causing you a world of financial pain as you make multiple trips to the auto shop.
Step 7: Look into Financing Options
You found a car you are seriously considering to buy. Do you have the means or a plan to finance it? If you purchase the used car from a dealer, attaining a car loan from your bank and making monthly installments is the best bet. If you are buying from a private party, we recommend that you pay for the car out right.
Final Thoughts on Meadowlands Used Cars Practical Checklist
Purchasing a car, used or new, is a big investment. By following these steps you will save time and money, getting the used car that is perfect for you and your auto needs.
- Buying a car, used or new, can be tricky, which is why Meadowlands Used Cars came up with practical steps for you to follow
- Create a list of deal breakers and feature you can’t live without to narrow your search
- Research the make and model of car
- Look at the cars driving around you: do you notice a make and model continually coming up? If the car is older, you can bet it is reliable. If it is newer, the car probably is a high seller
- Look up the VIN on safecar.gov to see if it has been recalled or has car parts that have
- Get a vehicle history report, which will show the odometer reading, title, whether the car has been in a flood, fire, or accident, among others
- Get the car inspected by a reliable auto shop and conduct your own personal car inspection
- Look for white-ish residue on the car and poorly functioning electornic systems, as the car may have sustained flood damage
- Look into financing options: consider monthly installments if purchasing a car from a dealership and pay in full if the car is from a third party
Contact East Coast Toyota for more information about used cars, and feel free to check out our used car selection.
 DMV: Used Car Inspection
 DMV: Used Car Inspection
 Consumer Report: Beware the Flood of Flooded-Out Cars