Used Car Shopping Essentials, Part Two: What To Look For Inside
In a recent post, we shared with you some helpful tips for what you should be looking for on the outside of a used car if you’re considering one as your next automobile. For help, we turned to Joe Campanella of Allstate, who advised that you check the paint, belts, tires, framing, and engine. Campanella also believed it was important to use your own mechanic in giving the vehicle a once-over before making any offers. Today, we turn to the inside of the car and answer the question, which vitals are important for helping you distinguish before quality purchase and lemon.
If you really want to know the age of a vehicle, you have to look at two areas in particular — time and mileage. In other words, when was the car made, and how far has it gone? “An old car with few miles or a car that’s only a few years old but has a ton of miles are both actually old cars,” Campanella says. “When buying a used car, you may have to make a choice between these two. If you’re looking at older cars to save on price, your mechanic can give you a better idea of whether you’re making a smart investment. If the car seems fine today but will nickel and dime you over the next couple months or years, the benefit of the lower price is no longer applicable.”
By emphasizing the condition of the car instead of its physical age since manufacturing date, you’ll have a better idea of whether it’s a good deal, provided that a mechanic has signed off on it.
Checking the interior of that used car is important — not just because of cosmetics, but also because it can tell you something about how well the car was kept by its past owner(s).
“While you may not get any say in the style of the interior, do make sure that it is in good condition,” Campanella advises. “Check the wear of the seats and the floors. Make sure there aren’t stains and that the previous owner or dealer has taken the time to clean the car as it should be before you take ownership.”
Focusing on the trunk, in particular, can alert you to signs of wear, leaks and rust.
Air conditioning can be a surprisingly expensive fix, and if you find yourself without a working AC during the hot summer months, you’ll find that few things in life are quite as miserable. For this reason, Campanella advises that “Even in the cold of winter, turn on the air conditioning system for a little while to make sure it’s working well.”
He continued: “If you definitely need AC, go with a car with R134 coolant. It will probably be a 1993 or newer model and will have a sticker on the AC condenser saying so. This is a more eco-friendly refrigerant that may last longer than some alternatives. Unfortunately, the truth is that all AC systems can leak a bit over time, usually due to degraded gaskets or o-rings. Proper inspection of the pipes, hoses and main mechanical parts is suggested.”
And remember — your heating system will be attached to the cooling system of the engine if you end up making a purchase. Have a mechanic check it out before settling on a final offer.
To check the braking system, Campanella suggests that you go to an empty parking lot and drive at a speed of 30 miles per hour or higher. Then, press hard enough on the brakes to test them out. “Don’t slam hard enough to skid or cause an accident,” he notes, “but to make sure in an emergency they will be reliable.”
Be particularly mindful of sounds when you apply pressure to the brakes. If there’s a squeal, it could be a simple and affordable brake pad fix. Grinding, on the other hand, means the entire brake probably needs to be replaced, and that can get costly.
Buying a used car is often more affordable, and because it’s easier to pay off, you don’t have to carry as much coverage with your auto insurance company, thus resulting in bigger savings over time. However, you’re also taking a risk in purchasing a car or truck with an unknown history. By paying attention to the issues we’ve addressed here, you can make sure that risk is as low as possible.