Your First Car: The Used Car Experience

Buying a used car can be a great or a horrible experience, many people get great cars at low prices and love them, but some people get what is called a ‘lemon’ a car that has some big problems and causes headaches and costly repairs. Follow the tips below and you will stack the odds of getting a great car in your favor.
The most important thing you can do is if you find something you really like have it checked out by a certified mechanic of your own choosing, this may cost $50 but it could save you thousands.
Some things to check on your own:

Check out the basics; what year is it, what is the mileage, any visible rust?

Check to see if the gas cap is attached – if it isn’t then some work has been done, either replacement of the gas tank or of the panel around the gas intake.

If the car has an automatic transmission then while you are test driving pull over facing up a hill, leave the car in drive and take your foot off the brake if the car rolls backwards then the transmission is getting weak and will likely soon need costly repair.

After your test drive throw a big piece of cardboard under the engine, wait 15 minutes and see if anything drips; warning you of a leak.

Test the air conditioning and heat

Ask the person why they are selling the car

Test drive the car over some rough grade (like a potholed dirt road) this will let you feel how the car feels and will also let you know how worn the shocks are (they are very expensive to replace).

Maintaining your car will both keep it running for longer and save you costly gas.

Change oil every 3,000 miles

Check tire air pressure weekly

Check and replace fluids; coolant, wiper fluid, and transmission fluid should all be checked and filled regularly.