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How to Choose a Pre-Owned Car

A late-model pre-owned car is the perfect way to marry your car wish list with your budget. Get all the features of a new car, but without the sticker shock! When it comes to buying a used car, it’s all about knowing what to look for so your used car lasts for years to come.

Follow these tips to make sure your pre-owned car doesn’t come with surprise issues:

Know the market value.

You most likely have a make, model and year in mind, but be sure to do your research and know the going rate for that car to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Sites like Kelly Blue Book can help you determine the current market value for the car you’re interested in.

Inspect the car.

Walk around the vehicle and inspect both the interior and exterior. Check the tires for uneven wear, which could be a sign of poor alignment. Also be sure that the car is a good fit – sit in both the front and rear seats so you know that you and your passengers will be comfortable.

Don’t be afraid to take it for a thorough test drive.

Take the vehicle through its paces and test as many aspects as you can, including brakes, acceleration, blinkers, lights, visibility and interior features such as heat and air conditioning. Pay attention to any unusual smells or sounds that could indicate more serious issues.

Consider getting the car checked out by a mechanic.

Known as a “pre-purchase inspection,” this extra effort might cost you $100-$200, but it could be worth the investment if the mechanic discovers issues that would have cost you thousands of dollars to repair in the long run.

Ask for the repair history on the car.

You can access this through CARFAX; you’ll simply need the license plate and VIN number of the car. When you’re looking at the report, pay attention to the frequency of repairs. Routine maintenance is a sign of a well-cared-for vehicle, but multiple repairs for the same malfunction could indicate a larger problem.


Consider the relationship between the car’s age and mileage.

On average, drivers put 10,000-12,000 miles on their car per year. Consider this when hunting for the right used car. A four-year-old car with 45,000 miles is considered typical, but one with closer to 80,000 might mean it has more wear and tear than a typical car its age.

Be prepared to walk away.

Try not to get too attached to a car before you see it and test drive it. If there are problems with the vehicle, or if the car and price don’t fit your needs, don’t be afraid to walk away!

Choose the best financing.

Whether you’re buying new or used, waiting until you get to the financing office of the dealership is a surefire way to get locked into a high-rate loan, meaning you’ll pay more in the long run. Work with a trusted lender to get preapproved before you go to buy your car, so you feel confident in your interest rate. FBN


By Shibu Cherian

Shibu Cherian is a product manager for OneAZ Credit Union. With some of the most competitive rates for new and used auto loans in the state, OneAZ Credit Union’s loan consultants can work with you to lock in an excellent rate, so you can get in the driver’s seat fast!

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