In the market for a used car? Follow these tips to avoid buying something you'll regret.
- Obtain a vehicle history report. Getting a glance at a car’s registration records can tell you if it has been stolen or brought in from another state or country by unscrupulous sellers who have “washed” the title or scrubbed the salvage status that shows a car has been totaled and then rebuilt.
Carfax is the most popular used car report provider. For $40, Carfax checks a vehicle’s registration, title information, odometer readings, total loss accident history, frame-structural damage, accident indicators, service and repair information, vehicle usage (use as a taxi, rental, or lease vehicle) and recall information. If you’re considering several vehicles, you can get five reports for $50 or an unlimited number within six days for $55.
Or if you're buying from a dealer, it's possible that the dealer will provide you with a free Carfax report.
- Check for liens. Check to see if any liens exist on the vehicle to ensure you won’t find your vehicle being repossessed due to bad debt by the previous owner. You can check for liens by calling the Department of Motor Vehicles and providing the car’s make, model, year, and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
- Get the car professionally inspected. You can get a top-to-bottom inspection (usually called a 150-point inspection, or something similar) from any reputable garage or car dealer. Services like Carz Inspection and Carchex will send an inspector to the car wherever it is for a curbside inspection and test drive. At $125 or more, that’s a pricey option, but it’s worthwhile if you have no other way of getting it looked at by a pro.