Buying Used Cars : A Daunting Task If You Don't Use All of the Information Available
Buying used cars and more specifically used Honda cars can be quite a smart idea, if you are an informed consumer. With the increasing popularity of leasing, the opportunity to purchase a late model vehicle has become less of a daunting task. Also, with the inception of
"manufacturer certified used car"
programs, the availabilty of clean vehicles with extended manufacturer's warranties has seemed to increase the level of reliabilty of the used car market.
The three most common places to make a used car purchase are a manufacturer affiliated dealership "ABC Honda", a used car broker dealership "CarMax" and the private seller which could be a stranger on Trader.com/.ca or your neighbour. You can save on car ownership costs from any of these sources and have the opportunity to purchase a vehicle many times at half of its original value.
As an example a new Honda Accord in Ontario, Canada could cost upwards of $35000.00 plus GST (goods and services tax) and PST (provincial sales tax) which would give you a total price of $39550.00. The same four year old Honda Accord could have a price of $14000.00 plus the PST and no GST if bought privately which would give you a complete price of $15120.00.
You would hope a Honda Accord would last for at least twelve years and upwards of 300000 kms and commonly they exceed this level. If this is the case you would still have the car for a minimum of eight years. You being the owner of the car for eight years, if it actually completely quit in its 12th year, means you received more then 66% of its life for 38% of its original value. Not a bad investment, if you look at it that way.
You can also save yourself on the cost of insurance if you are buying used cars. This in conjunction with the depreciation savings can save you tens of thousands of dollars in car ownership costs.
With all of the cost savings when buying used cars and the opprtunities to buy high quality, warrantied vehicles from reputable dealers and private individuals it is still a buyer beware purchase. The
regarding warranties are a little more skewed for the pre-owned vehicle market. Therefore, the need to be diligent in your research is increased substantially when you are planning on buying a used car, even if it is a used Honda.
Where did the car come from? How much did it originally sell for? Are there any common issues with this make and model? Has it been in an accident or just painted, and if so why? These are only a small sampling of questions you should ask yourself when you are in the market for a "quality pre-owned vehicle". They are also the questions we will supply answers for by clicking on the appropriate links below.
When you are
buying used cars
, the process of evaluating the vehicle at the dealership or the sellers home is a little bit different when buying used cars then it is with new cars. For obvious reasons critiquing a used vehicle needs to be done with a more discerning eye. Actually, a discerning eye, ear and nose to be more specific.
Click the links below to read reviews on previous year Honda's. In the reviews I have included common areas of concern, drivability with age and of course future reliabilty ratings. Read the reviews and then use the checklist below to be sure you are evaluating your specific car thoroughly and correctly before buying used cars.
Also be sure to bring a notepad with you when buying used cars.
2003 Honda Civic Hybrid
2001 - 2003 Honda Civic
2004 - 2005 Honda Civic
2006 Honda Civic
2003 Honda Pilot
Buying Used Cars Checklist for YOU
**Wear some old clothes you don't mind getting dirty and bring a companion to help with some of the checks when buying used cars**
Checking the Exterior
Be sure to crouch or kneel down by each fender and move along the side of the vehicle to check for ripples or difference in paint color. You will be able to see flaws while looking down the vehicle from front to back. Both could indicate a form of body repair.
If the area is large enough or covers an entire section (whole door) be sure to have the vehicle checked thoroughly by a professional.
For Honda's, each body component is affixed with a tag that has the id number on it. Check the trunk, the door sills, the bumpers and engine compartment to be sure all of the stickers match and are from Honda. If the component has been replaced but with a Honda replacement part the tag will indicate this.
Not all manufacturer's use this, so be aware when you are buying used cars from other companies. Look around component pieces, lights, moldings etc. Is there any paint that is on the edges of these pieces?
Also a good idea is to use either CarProof.com or CarFax.com to be sure of any accidents or body damage if you are not 100% certain.
Checking the Component and Trim Pieces
While you are walking around the vehicle looking for out of place paint, take the opportunity to check if the component pieces are damaged or missing. Is there any misalignment or are all of the component pieces sitting flush/even in their area.
Also are there any paint bubbles or raising around the moldings or seams? If you can, push on the rust bubble with your fingernail or another sharp object. If it crumbles easily and allows you to continue through the metal, the vehicle is rusting from the inside which can be very costly to repair. Rust that has started on the outside and has not advnced too far will be much less costly to repair, many times with just a little touch up paint.
Are all of the trim pieces securely fastened or are they loose to the touch. Don't pull too hard on them as they are normally only adheared by double sided tape and/or small clips.
Are the bumpers secure and mounted flush/even with the body? Is the hood misaligned or does it have equal gaps on both sides. Open and close all of the doors and trunk. Do they close easily? Are they misaligned? and is there any rust on the edges? **Be aware also that buying used cars that have been repainted because of rust will normally continue to rust even after the repair. Ask why the car was painted, if it was, and if they can supply photos for a before comparison.
Checking the Undercarriage
Checking for rust in the undercarriage when buying used cars is fairly simple, it's dirty but simple. Turn the vehicle on and turn the steering wheel all the way to the right to look in the left wheel well and the opposite way for the right side.
Do you see any rust or bubbles in the metal or are you seeing fresh rust proofing? If there is new rust proofing, scrape some off, down to the metal with a sharp tool and look for rust or work it between your fingers to feel for rust particles if you do not see any. Do the same for the rear wells also. Remember that fresher undercoating is not normally protecting you when you are looking at buying used cars it is commonly hiding something.
Since you are near the tires when you are doing all of this, check them also. Do they all match? If not they should to slow the wearing process. Do they seem to be wearing evenly from side to side and front to back.
While you are at the back of the vehicle check the exhaust (muffler and tailpipe). How does the exhaust smell and look. Does it smell burnt or sweet? (don't breath in too much though) Two indicators of possibly large dollar problems. Is the exhaust basically invisible or does it look like smoke? What color is it? If it is blue (oil) or white (water vapor) make sure you tell your mechanic. Are there any holes in the exhaust that are large enough to see while the car is on the ground? If there are the exhaust system may need to be replaced.
Working your way along the bottom of the vehicle look for welding seams. If there are excessive weld marks it could be the sign of an accident repair, but point them out to your mechanic to be certain.
Under the Hood with Engine OFF
Check these components while the engine is turned off. Look at the radiator. Is there any corrosion or rust? The metal fins that run from one side of the rad to the other, are they damaged or bent on either side? how bad does it look, little bits of damage is common.
Look at the hoses that run from the radiator. Are there any stress marks or bubbles? If there is you may run into leaks later. Follow the one hose to the overflow container. How does the coolant look. Is it dirty or rusty in appearance? This could be an indication of bigger problems or at least that the maintenance has been sub par.
Check all of the belts that wrap around the front of the engine, both the inside and outside of them. Do the look dry or have any cracks? Remember to keep notes on all your findings when buying used cars so your mechanic looks more closely at your areas of concern.
Look at the battery. Does it look old and corroded? If so have your mechanic check the cells to be sure you don't have a dead one or two.
Under the Hood with Engine ON
Have your companion start the engine after the vehicle has sat for awhile (cold to the touch) while you are at the rear of the car. When the car first starts is there smoke from the exhaust? Make a note of the color and the smell to tell your mechanic. Does the exhaust pulse? This could be do to bad valves. Put a piece of paper in front of the tailpipe, if the paper is pulled towrds it, it could mean serious issues.
Run your finger on the inside of the tailpipe before it gets too hot. Is there any liquid on your finger? What color is it? Oil leaks can sometimes show through the exhaust.
How did the vehicle start. Did it start right away or hesitate before firing up? Have your companion push the accelerator down gently and consistantly after you go to the front of the vehicle. How does the engine sound? Do you hear any knocking, rattling or squealing sounds?
Check all the points where two components join, are there any signs of leaking after the vehicle has warmed up(6-7 minutes)? Put the vehicle in gear and pull it away from its parking spot. Do you see any liquid? Dab your finger in it to check for color (red, brown etc) and then smell it.
Make a note of your findings. Many sellers may not know or will try to hide these findings from you when you are buying used cars. Saying it is probably the air conditioning is a common response, but buyer beware.
Checking the Interior
Looking for stains (water marks) along the edges of the headliner especially near the windows are strong indicators of leaking seals.
Pull up the floor mats and if applicable the seat covers. What sort of shape is it in? If you are concerned about severe water marks on the floor have your mechanic look for the possibility of rust forming.
With the engine running check the heat (are there any smells from the system?) and the defrost (do you hear it turn on with a slight click?).
Check the air conditioning, do you hear the compressor turning on an off with a clicking sound? Are there any smells? Some may be from a leak of refrigerant which could be very costly to repair.
Check the mileage. You should have no more then either 15000 miles per year in the United States or 24000 kms in Canada unless the vehicles price indicates a discount for more. If the mileage is much higher or lower then either of these numbers ask for an explanation of why.
Taking the Test Drive
Even before thinking of buying used cars take a drive. While on the drive make note of the engines performance. The vehicle should feel equally responsive whether cold or warm. If you hear noises or feel anything make a note of how it felt or sounded and where it occured. Did you hear it behind you or below you, did you feel it through the seat or through your feet?
Find a vacant road to test the brakes. The vehicle should not pull, vibrate or feel as if the brakes fade. You should not hear any grinding or squealing. Both are signs of bad things to come if they are not repaired before buying used cars.
After checking the brakes and making either a mental note or having your companion write them down, check the steering. Does the vehicle respond well when you weave back and forth or do you lose some responsiveness? Does the steering wheel resist you while you are making this motion? Either one could mean power steering or linkages.
To check the transmission accelerate heavily but not dangerously while letting the gears change (auto trans). Is there a hesitation before each shift or do you hear and feel a clunking as the vehicle shifts gears. If you do this is not a good sign and make strong mention of this to your mechanic. If the vehicle is a standard shift go through the gears from first through the top and back down. Is there any grinding or are they hard to get in place? This could be from bad syncros or linkages.
Next drive over a rough road surface to check the suspension before buying that used car. Listen for excessive rattling or banging sounds. On your way back weave the vehicle back and forth again to check for excessive sway or bounce. Does the vehicle feel like it is staying in control over the various surfaces and driving conditions, if not be sure to tell your mechanic.
After you have finished with your inpection, before ever buying used cars ask if you can take it to your mechanic. If the seller has nothing to hide they will agree to this request. They may let you drive it yourself or they may want to deliver it themselves, either way is fine.
Be sure to make mention of all of your findings and concerns to your technician before they get it up on a hoist. If it is possible be there at the garage while the inspection is being done and go on a drive with the technician, if you can, to point out your findings first hand.
Take the mechanics notes back to the seller if you want to buy this used car and
a fair price with the repairs in mind.
If you follow these steps and read the reviews on used Honda cars (if you are buying a Honda) you will be well on your way to buying used cars that will not only save you money but that you will be able to enjoy for years to come.
Use these sites to obtain average wholsale costs before buying used cars.