Buying a used car is a two-sided coin. You either get a great deal on a great machine that will last you years. Or, you overpay for a vehicle that’s going to cause you and your wallet to hurt later down the road. If you take the right steps, it is pretty easy to weed out the rotten eggs, and get a vehicle that will get you where you need to go at a great price. Below are the steps to buying a used car in Colorado.
Step 1 — Do Your Research.
Assuming that you have an idea of the types of used vehicles that you’re interested in and your budget, it’s time to do your research. There are several things that you should check online about your desired used vehicle before you step foot in a dealership.
- Check the Reliability and Safety
Since you’re buying a used vehicle, there’s been plenty of time to see how the vehicle itself holds up. Websites, like Consumer Reports, gives you a great idea as to the reliability of the vehicle, any future repairs you may encounter, and an idea of how safe the used vehicle is.
- Check Vehicle History Report
The Vehicle History Report is very important and vehicle specific, not model specific. Visit websites like CARFAX to see if your vehicle has been in any accidents, how many people have owned the vehicle, and any service records associated with the vehicle. This data will give you an idea of how the vehicle has been cared for. Avoid used vehicles that have had overdue oil changes, been in serious accidents, or have had an excessive amount of owners. Also, you should be able to request a Vehicle History Report free of charge at the used car dealership.
- Do a Finance Check
Check to see if the vehicle has any outstanding finance. Typically all dealerships will pay off any finance or lean the vehicle has. If they haven’t, avoid the dealership! This will cause you a load of headaches and time in the long run. Not knowing that your vehicle has financing means someone from a finance company can just show up one day and take your vehicle away. This is also something to be weary of when buying from a private seller.
- Research the Price
Small used car lots are notorious for jacking up prices on used vehicles. Fortunately, there are more free online resources to help keep you from getting ripped off. We recommend checking Kelly Blue Book’s website. It will tell you the standard price for the year/make/model and whether your offer is overly high or a great value.
Step 2 — Vet Your Used Car Dealer
The next step is to check what people are saying about the dealership on places like Google Maps, Yelp, Cars.com, The Better Business Bureau, etc… Here’s a quick personal story.
I was looking for a used Toyota 4Runner in Denver, CO, and it was hard to find any vehicles at a good price because they’re in such high demand. Then I started to stumble across all of these Toyotas that were listed at prices too good to be true, and I noticed they were all from the same seller.
So me being paranoid, did a deep dive on the used car lot and found a ton of 1-star reviews. After reading the reviews, I learned that this dealership was salvaging totaled Toyotas (specifically because they’re in high demand), rebuilding them, and not fully disclosing this information unless specifically asked. Customers said that when they asked about this the sales people would get aggressive and try to force the sale. I also read that the unfortunate people that purchased from this dealership started having serious mechanical problems just months after they bought their used Toyota.
Needless to say, I chose to go to another dealership, and the 20 minutes extra that I took to read reviews saved me 10s of thousands of dollars in the long run.
If you’re looking for a budget used car, we recommend going to a used lot like our, Durango Value Autos. Since it’s a division of a larger dealership, there’s a lot more structure and resources to make your sale easy and reliable. Our dealership in particular thoroughly inspects and reconditions all vehicles before we put them for sale, and we have the resources to provide you with various guarantees and a multitude of financing options.
If you are going to a smaller used car lot, here are a few things to look for:
- Does the dealer have a website? If not, we recommend steering clear.
- What’s the average review rating across several sites?
- Do the reviews specifically talk about them selling faulty vehicles or forcefully pushing certain used vehicles on people.
- Sort the reviews by “most recent” and see what the current trend is. Has their quality dropped off recently?
Step 3 — Inspect Your Used Car In Person.
Once you find a vehicle that is right for you and from a reputable seller, your next move is to view the car in person. When inspecting the vehicle, be sure to go in the daylight to see everything clearly. Bringing a friend along to have a second set of eyes can be very effective. It’s recommended that you take the used vehicle to an independent professional mechanic who you trust to get an expert opinion before you make your large purchase.
- Inspect the Exterior & Motor
When checking out the exterior look for rust, misaligned panels, glass damage, and hail damage. Open and close the trunk and all doors. When inspecting the engine watch out for leaks or any type of burning smell. However, engine inspections are best left to mechanics as there are many other things to look for.
- Inspect the Interior
Be sure to check out the entire interior of the car including the electronics. Is the upholstery intact? Do the knobs/controls work and speakers sound clear? Does warm and cold air come out when selected? Does it smell moldy or are there signs of water damage? These are all great things to keep in mind when looking through the interior of a used car, truck, or SUV.
- Give it a Test Drive
On your test drive it’s important to drive in all modes (stop and go, highway, etc…). Main things to look for when test-driving a used car is;
None of the warning lights are on
- The engine runs smoothly when idling and driving
- There are no strange noises or vibrations
- Acceleration is smooth and there’s no lack of power
- The engine temp stays the same once the car is warmed up
- Get a 3rd Party Evaluation: This is an important one, but it is typically overlooked because it can be an inconvenience. If the dealership that you’re buying from doesn’t have a service center or hasn’t been checked out by their service center, request to take the vehicle to a local mechanic. It may cost a little upfront but could save you thousands of dollars and a load of trouble in the long run.
If you’re in the market, check out Durango Motor Company’s current selection of used vehicles!