Americans have long had a love affair with the automobile. Many find buying a car, truck, or SUV to be a great thrill throughout their lives. And buying a vehicle should be a thrill. We invite you to read some tips on ensuring that your next new or used vehicle purchase remains a satisfying and exciting one.
Enjoy Buying a New Vehicle
Sooner or later it happens to all of us. Whether you’re looking for basic transportation or the thrill of a hot new sports car, the time eventually comes to buy a car or truck, and it’s a purchase you should make very carefully. There’s a lot to consider when buying a new vehicle. So how do you choose?
Before you walk onto a dealer’s lot, do what your teachers and parents have always told you. Do your homework. Start by asking yourself some basic questions:
- What kind of car or truck do you need?
- How much can you afford?
- What down payment and monthly payment fits into your budget?
- List the makes and models that meet your needs.
- List which options are most important.
- Consider other costs of ownership such as taxes, insurance and maintenance.
Next you’re ready to select a dealer. Here in Hampton Roads, we’re fortunate to have many dealers to choose from. Ask if the dealer is a member of HRADA. It gives you peace of mind that the dealer has the highest standards of business ethics.
Some car buyers make their first visit to the dealership on Sundays when many dealers are closed. You can take your time and make notes on the vehicles you are interested in. Once you have gathered your information, visit the showroom. You’ll be greeted by a salesperson when you arrive. Consider him or her as a helpful resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good salesperson will begin by asking certain questions designed to help you find the vehicle that’s right for you. Their knowledge and expertise can be a great help to you in the decision making process.
Once you have narrowed your choices, arrange for a test drive. The salesperson will ride with you and orient you to the features and benefits of the vehicle. This is the time to check the vehicle’s performance, handling and ride quality. Ask to drive the car in a variety of situations; smooth and bumpy roads, slow residential speeds and highway speeds. Check braking, steering, acceleration and overall stability of the car. Drive with the radio off so you can listen for unusual noises or rattles.
Once you’ve made your selection, it’s time to get down to business. Don’t be anxious about negotiating. Remember, you’re the customer and you’re in the driver’s seat. If the price is not acceptable just decline the offer.
If you are trading in your current vehicle you’ll need to know a few additional things. First, if you have a loan on the vehicle, what is the loan balance? If the car is worth less than that loan balance, your trade-in may actually cause the total cost of your new purchase to be higher. If you owe less than the trade-in is worth, the total new vehicle cost will be less. Most people are aware of the books (value guides) used in appraising vehicles. It is important to bear in mind that a vehicle’s value is based on many factors. The condition of your car (mechanically and cosmetically,) the mileage as it relates to the vehicle’s age and market conditions associated with the make and model of your trade- in, all affect the vehicle’s value.
Your salesperson will also remind you of the additional costs associated with purchasing a vehicle, the ones we tend to overlook: taxes, title and registration fees, dealer preparation and optional accessories. Extended service contracts or extended warranties are another consideration. When considering whether or not to purchase and extended warranty, examine the original factory warranty. The manufacturer’s warranty will cover most every repair that may occur during the time frame of the warranty period. If you plan on keeping the vehicle past the warranty period, an extended warranty may be a wise investment. Based on the current costs to repair various components, you’ll find this coverage can be a lifesaver.
Finally, after you’ve taken your new pride and joy home, take the time to review the owner’s manual and recommended maintenance schedule in detail. This information will help you have many wonderful years with your new car.
Used Car Purchase Check List
Buying a car is the biggest purchase most people ever make aside from a home. Buying a used car can be fun and exciting or it can be a huge headache. HRADA offers these important tips that you may find helpful in your search.
Give yourself plenty of time. If you buy on impulse or under pressure, you may make a mistake. There are plenty of good deals out there, although you may have to wait several weeks to find one.
Don’t get emotionally attached to a vehicle. A car that looks good may be in terrible shape mechanically.
Talk with a bank about a loan BEFORE you search for a vehicle. Knowing what your budget is in advance can save you a lot
of time later.
Pick the type of vehicle you are interested in, and talk with people who have owned them before. Was their experience good or bad? What type of breakdowns or problems did they have? Is this typical of this model? Would they buy another one?
When you find the vehicle you like, have it checked out by a professional. If this is not possible, check the following items.
Call a dealer and ask if there are any recall notices on the vehicle you are considering. You will need to know the VIN#.
Start the engine. Does it idle smoothly?
If the vehicle blows blue smoke continuously, it could be a sign that the vehicle needs a valve or ring.
Do the emergency flashers work?
Check the electrical system. Check the turn signals, front and rear; break lights, backup lights, headlights, taillights, high beams as well as running lights on the side of the vehicle. Check the horn.
Do all the gauges work?
When the vehicle is started, all the warning lights should light up to show they work. It is important that they are all in working condition, as they warn you of equipment failure.
Turn on the heat and/or air conditioner. (Turning on the air conditioner may cause the vehicle to idle faster to handle the increased load on the engine.) Check the fan.
How many miles are on the vehicle? The average driver drives 15,000 miles per year. Is it significantly higher or lower than this? Why? (Banks will generally not finance vehicles with more than 100,000 miles.)
Look at the brake, clutch and gas pedals. Is the wear on them consistent with the miles on the odometer? If not, this may be an indication that the mileage on the odometer has been “turned back.” Also check for wear on the carpets.
Lift the carpets up. Is it damp? Is there a musty odor? This could be a sign of leaking windows, poor seals, or even leaking from the heater.
Are the carpets stained with water, or is there any rust present? This could be a sign that the car has been under water,
in a flood etc.
Check the windshield wipers at all speeds. Check the washers.
Check the spare tire and look for the jack and lug wrench.
Open and close all the windows.
Open and close all doors. Check the door locks.
Move the seats the full range of motion.
Put on the emergency brake and put the vehicle in gear. It should not move forward at idle speed with the emergency brake engaged.
Turn on the radio. Does it work? Is there an electric antenna? Does it work?
Open the hood and look for oil leaks, steam rising off the engine, or a hissing sound from the radiator.
Check all the fluid levels. Are they full?
If the vehicle has an automatic transmission, check the fluid level of the transmission (the dipstick is generally at the back of the engine). The fluid should be full. It should also not be burnt. Burning transmission fluid usually indicates early signs of a transmission problem.
Look at the tires. Are they worn? Are they worn evenly? If they are worn on the sides, the vehicle probably needs an alignment. It may be something simple, or it may be an indication that the car has been hit in the front and can not be aligned properly.
Will the tires need to be replaced soon? A full set of tires is usually $200 to $500.
Push down on the fenders above each tire. When you release, does the car bounce or move back up and sit? Bouncing means the vehicle needs shocks. Shocks can run $50+ per tire to replace. McPherson Struts are more. Many vehicles use this type of shock.
Look for pools of oil or fluid under the vehicle. This could indicate leaks.
Drive the vehicle with the radio OFF. Are there any unusual sounds?
Go to a parking lot and turn the steering wheel all the way to one side and drive in a circle. Repeat in the other direction. Are there any rubbing sounds? This could indicate that the vehicle has been wrecked.
Drive over speed bumps. Do the wheels “bottom out”? This could indicate that the vehicle needs springs. Does the vehicle quit bouncing immediately? If not this could indicate that the vehicle needs shock absorbers.
Does the vehicle accelerate smoothly? Does the transmission slip between gears?
Is the steering wheel loose? This could be a front-end suspension problem.
Check the body. Feel under the fender rims for signs of bodywork.
Stand in front of the vehicle and look down the side of the vehicle. Are there signs of bodywork?
Open the door for the gas. This usually the best place to look to see if a vehicle has been repainted.
Look in the door jam area, another area to see if the vehicle has been repainted. Repainting may have been due to an accident.
What is the age of the State Inspection sticker? If it is over six months old you’ll want to get a current inspection.
Ask to see the title. Insurance companies will many times declare a vehicle as uneconomical to repair and sell it to a junkyard for parts. These vehicles are then sometimes repaired anyway. They will carry a salvage title with them. This is not necessarily bad, because a competent mechanic/body person can sometimes repair them for less than an insurance company was willing to pay. However, sometimes these vehicles are real problems. Buyers beware.
Ask why the vehicle is being sold. Does it sound like a legitimate reason, or does it sound like it is being sold because it is a continuous problem? Cars that list “many new parts” usually fall into the later category. The seller is tired of being nickel and dimed to death. If the car is being replaced, did the seller buy a similar model?
Does the owner have maintenance records? Also, any repair records? Many shops give a warranty with their repairs and those records could be very useful should you need to make a claim.
Be aware that when you purchase a vehicle from individuals, they are not obligated to give you a warranty, assist you with your DMV work or to be truthful about the vehicle’s history. A better price than the dealer is offering doesn’t make it a “good deal”.
HRADA offers 10 tips on how to restore flooded vehicles:
- Do not start a flooded vehicle until a thorough inspection and cleaning is performed.
- Take immediate steps to dry the vehicle as much as possible so as to reduce the length of time vehicle components are exposed to water.
- Contact your insurance carrier or agent and promptly report the exposure of your vehicle to water or flood.
- Record the highest level of water exposure on a flooded vehicle. This will aid qualified technicians in evaluating and taking the necessary steps to correct any damage.
- Contact a certified technician to arrange for an inspection and evaluation of the flooded vehicle.
- Have a qualified technician inspect all mechanical components, including the engine, transmission, axles, brake and fuel system for water contamination.
- Have a qualified technician flush and replace all fluids, oils and lubricants, and replace all filters and gaskets for components exposed to water. While a vehicle may drive with fluids that have experienced water intrusion, extended internal exposure to water will increase the level of damage to the engine and other vehicle components.
- Many repair facilities recommend a thorough cleaning of brake parts and repacking of bearings, particularly for rear-end drive vehicles. In front-wheel drive vehicles, bearings are sealed.
- Some of today’s vehicles have padding and insulation that do not easily release moisture. In this situation, it is most effective to replace the materials to prevent the forming of mold or mildew that may contaminate the entire vehicle. With mildew, a repair that may have cost only $100, can easily escalate.
- Have a qualified technician inspect all wiring and electrical components exposed to water. While many components are protected from casual water exposure, extended flood exposure may have lingering effects. In some instances, difficulty due to water exposure will not surface earlier than 90 days, when computer and other electrical components begin to corrode.
While significant exposure to water can have lasting effects on the operability and life-expectancy of a vehicle, early and proper corrective action is the best way an owner can protect his vehicle and limit losses. Prompt intervention can often significantly limit vehicle damage that could result from flood or extended water exposure.