4 Simple Steps To Help You Determine The Quality Of A Used Car

Ride Time, Used Car Dealer, Used Cars

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quality of a used car

Buying a used car is an awesome way to save some serious money on transportation. A high-quality used car is just as reliable, durable, and valuable as a new car. Not only that, you can save quite a bit of money when buying a used car – you can avoid depreciation, lower your insurance costs, and get a better financial deal with a low down payment.

Most used car dealerships nowadays are professional, above-board businesses – and they deal in great cars at reasonable prices. However, not all dealers are alike – and not all used cars are alike.

If you’re interested in buying a used car, it’s very important to be able to determine if you’re looking at a great used car – or if you’re looking at a clunker that will blow up as soon as you drive it off the lot.

To help you as you make your buying decision, we’ve put together a list of 4 simple steps that you can take to determine the quality of a used car. By following our advice, you can get a much better idea of the overall quality of a car – and make an informed purchasing decision.

1. Inspect The Body

You can’t always judge a book by it’s cover – but it’s a good start! The first step you should take towards determining the quality of a used car is to check the body of the car itself thoroughly. You should look for:

  • Obvious wear and tear – Scratches, dings, and superficial damage should be a factor in your determination
  • Body damage – Deep damage to the body of a car is not usually a good sign – it can indicate a poor repair, or overall automotive neglect.
  • Damaged paint – Damaged paint is far more than just aesthetically ugly – it can compromise the overall structure of the car body, as paint and protective coatings are the primary means of protecting the car from corrosion
  • Corrosion and rust – Corrosion and rust on a car are generally undesirable. The presence of corrosion and rust can indicate neglect and poor maintenance, and it’s  usually quite difficult to remove advanced corrosion or rust damage.

Now, it’s important to note that finding one or two of these things isn’t always a deal-breaker – but the price of a car should certainly reflect any body damage, corrosion, or wear and tear that is present, and you should be wary of buying a car that has many of the above factors.

2. Examine The Interior

The interior of a used car is just as important as the exterior. You should do a comprehensive inspection of the car’s interior, and get an overall feeling for its condition. Look for:

  • Bad smells – Bad smells are unpleasant – and a car that reeks of fast food, cigarette smoke, or other bad smells may have been neglected over its lifetime. It is possible to remove these smells if you buy a car – but they’re still an indicator that a used car may not be of top-notch quality.
  • Stains and damage to upholstery – Look for large stains and damaged upholstery – these are further indicators of neglect and poor overall car quality, although they may also contribute to a lower overall price.
  • Undamaged in-car systems – You should check the interior of the car to make sure everything works – CD players, turn signals, windshield wipers, trunk and hood latches, heating, air conditioning, and so on. If you find a non-functional component, that’s a sign that the car may be in poor overall condition.

Following these tips can help you quickly assess the overall quality of a car as soon as you step into it. Ideally, the best used car will easily pass all of these inspections – it will be clean, well-maintained, and have a fully-functional driver control panel.

3. Take It For A Long Test Drive

You’re probably not a mechanic – so you’re probably not going to be able to assess a car’s overall health by inspecting its mechanical systems. However, you are a driver. you probably know how a car should perform in standard, everyday driving situations.

So put your prospective car through its paces, and take it for a long test drive. Most dealers are more than happy to allow you to do so.

Take it on highways, city streets, and country roads. Turn up the air conditioner or heat – all the way. Test the blinkers, parking lights, and high-beams. Brake quickly – and see how the tires and brakes respond. Make sure the parking brake works.

All throughout this process, make a note of how the car responds. Does it smell funny after braking? Is acceleration sluggish? Is a parking light out? Are you hearing any strange noises?

By taking a car through its paces on a long, comprehensive test drive, you can get a great feel for how it will perform every day – and gain a better understanding of its overall quality.

4. Ask To See The Vehicle’s History Report

This is the simplest step on our list. Any above-board used car dealer would be happy to furnish you with a vehicle history report, and websites like Carproof can allow Canadians to track vehicle histories for a fee.

A vehicle history report will include any and all major accidents that a car has been involved in, tracked by its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). If the car you’re interested in clears the vehicle history report, that’s a good sign – it has never been involved in any significant accidents. And if a car has many incidents in its history, it should be avoided – it’s likely had a significant amount of work done, and may be of poor quality.

NOTE: passing a vehicle history report is a good sign – but it doesn’t guarantee great vehicle condition. Breakdowns and mechanical failures are usually not tracked in vehicle history reports – even a car that has never been involved in an accident can be of poor overall quality.

Follow These Simple Steps – And Buy A Great Used Car

The only way to guarantee you get a fantastic used car is by shopping at a reputable dealer like Ride Time – but no matter where you shop, you’ll be able to quickly determine the quality of a used car by following these 4 simple steps.

So get out there and shop with confidence – if you follow this simple guide, you’re sure to find an awesome deal on a great used car.


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