Buying a used car can be a life-changing decision on a more affordable budget. Whether you are buying a used Scion tc, a pre-owned Subaru Forester, or a previously leased Chevy Cruze, the experience will be most successful if you do a little homework before actually pulling out your wallet to make the purchase. This is a big decision that has the capacity to enhance your quality of life. However, it is crucial to make an intelligent, informed decision to avoid painful long-term consequences.

Consider the History of the Car

When purchasing a previously used car it is absolutely essential that you find out as much as you can about the history and past experience of the car. Has it been in an accident? Was it a leased vehicle? If so, how many different owners has it had? Does it snow where it came from? Is it coming from a dealership or is it being privately sold? These are just a few questions to jog your brain and help you understand what types of questions you should be asking. If the car has been in a previous accident, you should check to see if it is a salvage vehicle or if there is any lasting damage that will hinder your use of the car. If the car came from an area with snow, you should check the underbelly of the car and ensure that the salt used on icy roads hasn’t corroded the undercarriage. If the car has had several owners, take the time to check the interior of the car thoroughly and see how it has been maintained. Based on the answers to these and other questions you can learn a lot about the condition of the car, and the fairness of the price being asked.

Thoroughly Examine the Entire Car

This piece of advice follows hard on the heels of the first. Be sure to give yourself some time to really examine the entire vehicle, inside the car, under the hood, around the entire body, and even underneath the carriage of the car. Ideally, if you have the opportunity, do this out of view of the salesperson or owner so that you have the freedom to really scrutinize the state of the car without being under someone else’s watchful eye. You should be looking for bump, scrapes, stains, salt corrosion, funny smells, and even missing hardware or attachments. You’re about to make a real investment in this car as a vehicle that will serve you, hopefully for many years to come, make sure that it is a worthwhile investment in something that is going to wear well.

Ask About the Maintenance Record for the Car

This note is an extension of the first note. As you sleuth about the past of the car, glean as much information as you can about the maintenance record of the car. When was the oil last changed? Has the car been regularly taken in for tune-ups? Is there anything still under warranty on the car? How close is the car to its next round of tune-ups and oil changes? In a best case scenario, the car will have a sparkling record with regular trips to check engine fluids, ,change the tires, etc. However, if the car seems to have been in the shop an excessive amount, try to get as much information as you can. You don’t want to invest your hard-earned money on a lemon that’s going to constantly in the shop.

Take a Look at the Odometer and Mileage

Finally, once again thoroughly check the car, including the odometer. How many miles are on the car? This number will tell you a lot about the wear and tear that the car has already been through. It would also be wise to compare the current mileage on the car to the next manufacturer recommendation for preventative tune-ups. Most manufacturers advise getting parts replaced around a specific mile marker to avoid part failures, and other mechanical issues. If the vehicle is due for a tune-up you might be able to haggle down the price a bit with the argument that the car will need to have so much money poured into it immediately to have the oil changed, or brake pads replaced, etc. in the very near future.

Buying a used car truly has the potential to be a life-improving opportunity. Owning a car provides an additional degree of freedom to travel, and the flexibility to do it on your time table. However, because it is such a large purchase making a poor decision can have a long-lasting financial impact. The key to making a good decision, and feeling confident in your choice, is taking the time to research the options thoroughly, carefully examine the car in question, and use that knowledge to inform your ultimate decision. Best of luck!