Congratulations! You’ve just been approved for an auto loan. Now, it’s time to start searching for the perfect ride. After test driving all the options on your list, you’re torn between several options.
Well, there’s so much more to purchasing a car that spans beyond the test drive. Once you’ve secured financing, you’ll need to thoroughly analyze the car from top to bottom, inside out, to ensure it’ll be worth the investment.
New or Used?
In most instances, what you see is what you get when purchasing a used car. You’ll have the option of changing the paint color or purchasing more add-ons, but only once the deal is sealed.
On the other hand, a new car is another ball game. In most instances, you’ll have several options to choose from. Visit the manufacturer’s website to take an online tour of both the exterior and interior tour of the vehicle. You can also visit the local dealership to get an up close and personal look. But keep in mind that it’ll be chock full of all the bells and whistles, so it’s best to read the fine print to get an idea of what the base model includes. You may discover that the ride is not worth the asking price.
A 21-point Checklist
Since most new cars come with some sort of manufacturer’s warranty to give you a peace of mind, what you’ll be looking for will be cosmetic. By contrast, a bulk of used cars are sold as-is unless you are considering a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle from the dealership or the seller’s extended warranty is still valid and will transfer to you.
Here’s a checklist of things to look for when buying a car:
- 1. Body: Does the manufacturer offer the color or paint finish you’re looking for? If the car is used, is the body of the vehicle up to par or are there scratches and dents that could indicate major bodywork has been performed on the vehicle? The latter could indicate that the car was totaled in an accident and is not safe for the road.
- 2. Hauling Capacity: Will you be transporting heavy objects? If so, you’ll need to inquire about the towing capacity. Also, examine the trunk space to ensure its adequate and confirm bicycle and/or luggage racks can be installed on the vehicle if they aren’t already present.
- 3. Doors: Power doors are a huge plus for minivans since you’ll either be hauling tons of items or having children frequently enter and exit. Test them out to ensure they function properly.
- 4. Windows and Glass: Do they roll up and down without a hitch or does the motor seem to be going out? Are there any cracks in the windshield?
- 5. Lights: Are they fully-functional? In most vehicles, it’ll only cost you a few bucks to replace light bulbs. But select luxury cars are another story.
- 6. Wheels and Tires: Is the vehicle equipped with premium alloy wheels or are you stuck with standard hubcaps? Most importantly, how’s the tire tread? Is the wear consistent on all four tires or do some appear to be a bit more worn than others? The latter could indicate infrequent rotation or excessive stress on the vehicle.
- 7. Seats: Are the seats in stellar condition or do they reek of an unpleasant scent? Also, do they have heating and cooling capabilities. Temperature control is definitely a bonus, but it could come in handy when it’s freezing or extremely hot outside.
- 8. Headliner: The headliner should be intact. If it’s sagging, this could be indicative of a leak when it rains.
- 9. Cooling and Heating System: This may not seem like a big deal until the temperatures reach scorching highs or extreme lows, so test the cooling and heating system out before you seal the deal.
- 10. Bells and Whistles: The list is practically endless with regards to interior features of both used and new vehicles. Some of the more popular interior features include:
- Keyless entry, a feature that comes in handy if your hands are full of groceries or you simply wish to avoid having to whip out your set of keys each time you need to enter or exit the vehicle
- Remote start, which enables you to crank up your car from afar
- Entertainment, such as XM Satellite radio, navigation system or mobile wi-fi
- Sunroof, but be sure there’s no wear around the edges of the glass or the rain will seep in and damage the interior of your vehicle.
While these are not essential for the vehicle to function at the optimal level, they may be worth considering if you have specific upgrades you are looking for in your next car. Click to the next page to read on.
Under the Hood
- 11. Automatic or Manual: If you can’t drive a “stick shift”, it’s best to stick with automatic vehicles.
- 12. Engine Type: Do you prefer a V4, V6, V8 or V12 engine?
- 13. Drive Type: Is the vehicle a 4 Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive or Rear Wheel Drive?
- 14. Fluid Levels: Are the fluids at the proper level and free of debris?
- 15. Belts: Do the belts appear worn or cracked?
- 16. Leaks: Take a peek at the surface underneath the vehicle. Is there any evidence of an oil or fluid leak?
- 17. Safety features: How did the car fare in the IIHS Safety test? Also, is it equipped with a backup camera, parking assist, brake assist, or any other premium safety features?
Additional Factors to Consider
- 18. Reputation of the manufacturer: Is the track record of the manufacturer a positive one? This may be difficult to determine without conducting much research, but a quick online search of industry expert and consumer reviews will do the trick
- 19. Gas mileage: If you’re on the road often, fuel efficiency is a factor you cannot afford to overlook.
- 20. Service records: Can the previous owner provide the service records?
- 21. Check the Carfax: This is a great way to get acquainted with the history of the vehicle.
A Final Thought
Pay close attention to how the vehicle rides during the test drive. And if possible, have a professional inspection conducted by the mechanic as he or she will be able to identify any major issues that could end up costing you a fortune.
Car owners, what did you wish you knew about your car before you bought it? Share below!