For many, buying your first car is like a rite of passage, a folded page in the book of your life. Signaling that transition from dependence to independence, buying your first car is indicative of adulthood. In short, it’s a big deal. It’s also very exciting and, in this excitement, it can be all too easy to blow a few thousand dollars on what looks to be a great secondhand purchase, only to find a few weeks later that the car you envisioned driving you into your future is a rickety rust-bucket with about as much structural integrity as a LEGO set. This outcome is far from ideal, so to help you out we’ve prepared a list of things to keep in mind while buying your first used car.
Avoid large engines
As tempting as it is to parade around in a three-ton pickup truck while glaring down at the mere mortals in their hatchbacks and crossovers, this isn’t a particularly wise option economically. You’d be much better off finding a car with a small, efficient engine with the sole purpose of getting you from point A to point B. The ride won’t be particularly fast, or exhilarating, but that’s not the point. For now, you need something cheap, and who knows, maybe saving all that money now will facilitate the purchase of your $50,000 Ford Raptor sometime in the near future.
One year depreciation steals
If you’re looking to spend a little more on a used car, you might be interested in buying one that’s only one or two years old. On average, a brand-new car loses approximately 10 percent of its value as soon as it leaves the dealership, and 20 percent by the end of its first year of ownership. This way, if you play your cards right, you can walk away with a car that’s practically new but at a ridiculous discount. What’s more, if you buy a used car from an authorized dealer, it’ll have been cleaned and inspected to ensure that it’s in the best condition it can be.
Be wary of rust
Rust, especially in tropical climates like ours, is a car’s worst enemy; if left untreated, it can quite literally turn a car to dust. While small patches of cosmetic surface rust are nothing more than an eyesore, it’s the rust that you can’t see that causes problems. If you’re checking out a used car, take time to inspect the undercarriage for signs of severe corrosion. If there’s rust present, get out of that garage as quickly as possible and don’t look back.
Ask for maintenance records or get an inspection
It’s a good idea to ask the owner for a maintenance record just in case something sinister is lurking behind that bodywork. While it might look good from the outside, those glossy panels could be hiding a mechanical calamity.
Alternatively, if you don’t trust the word of the owner, you can always get the car inspected by a certified mechanic. As a rule of thumb, it would also be wise to avoid a car if it has over 100,000 miles on the odometer. It isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but you should consider other options first if they’re available.
Always Test Drive the Car
When all is said and done, it is important to test drive the car, that way you can ensure that the vehicle doesn’t have any glaring issues, like a pull or faulty transmission. Furthermore, you’ll never quite know if a car is right for you until you’ve sat in it and driven it yourself.