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What to look at before purchasing a pre-owned vehicle

Because I work with so many vehicles, I’ve seen the best and worst of car buying decisions.

Here is my advice on buying a new or pre-owned vehicle and what you should look out for with considering the the financial issues, the mechanical issues, the interior and the exterior issues.

What to consider financially when purchasing a new to you vehicle.

Brand new vehicles depreciate 20% in the very first year, and then roughly 10% after that every year. Once you drive a brand new vehicle off the the lot, within 13 months you have lost 30% of the value of that vehicle.

That means that, even if  you financed at a 0% interest rate, you lost 30% of the value of that vehicle within 18 months.

That is a lot of value to lose when you could consider purchasing a pre-owned vehicle which won’t loose value as quickly.

When looking to purchase a preowned vehicle, the sweet spot to look for is the two year range. That is when most depreciation has happened with that vehicle; and secondly, there are still a lot of warranties and perks that go with purchasing that pre-owned vehicle.

Pre-owned vehicles can have many issue so be sure to do your research

Yes, you may say “I might get a higher interest rate if I buy a pre-owned versus a new vehicle”. That might be true but you are not going to be paying that interest rate on the 30% of car value that no longer exists.

Do your research!

Go online and do research about the different vehicles you are interested in.

Kelley Blue Book is a very reliable source to ascertain the value of the vehicle you’re considering.

Also, I would suggest that you contact multiple dealerships in the area, letting them know what deal you have and what they can do for you. You never know when they’re going to buy, you never know who’s desperate to sell a vehicle, right.

Another place to go for information is YouTube. Go there and search for “How to buy a pre-owned vehicle” or “what to look for when buying a pre-owned vehicle” or other searches about specific vehicles you are interested in. There is a wealth of information and knowledge there and other places online; all you have to do is spend some time researching.

Consider getting your own financing before looking for vehicles.

I would suggest get your own financing before you go to the dealership. That way you have the power, you have the value. Don’t get lost in the numbers.

Also, one thing you want to think about, when you get the deal done go home and sleep on it. Wake up clearheaded. You’ll know this is the right thing or the wrong thing to do. So we talked about financial.

Financially, pre-owned vehicles are a great choice. I used to be opposed to them and until I really saw how much I had lost when I bought a new vehicle, quite a difference.


Secondly, we’re going to tell you about mechanical. I’m not a mechanic. I don’t even play one on television, but I will tell you, buying a pre-owned vehicle I would number one, buy it from a dealership that has great reviews.

Why? Because those people who have great reviews, i.e. US Auto Spa, they’re going to stand behind everything they do because they realize the value of what people say about what you offer. I would go to a large dealership or even a smaller dealership, even a mom and pop, it doesn’t matter. Stay away from any type of buy here, pay here lots. Those are just not the way to roll.

Mechanically, let’s talk about this. Number one, if you have a mechanic that you can trust, you should tell the seller that, yes, you want to buy this vehicle but it’s contingent upon my mechanic giving a thumbs up. You can do that before you purchase a vehicle if you have a mechanic you can trust.

If you don’t, I recommend go to the reviews sites, like Carfax. I’m not going to say anything bad about it, but I’ve heard good things, I’ve heard bad things about it. It’s better than nothing. It’s a source to find information about what you’re stepping into. If there is a problem, if it was recorded, it would be great value to you.

Interesting Places To Purchase Cars From…

If you’re going to buy a pre-owned vehicle, I tell you two great places to go. Never purchased them from them, but I can tell you I’ve had clients who have bought from these two two companies. Number one is, and number two is Carmax.

Let me tell you the beauty of this situation. I’ve had client call me with a situation where she had just purchased a pre-owned vehicle, and the vehicle smelled like a cat urine, which is very disgusting. I asked her where did you purchased the vehicle from. She said I purchased it from Carvana. I said how many days you had it. She said I’ve had it one day.

My advice to her was return it. Tell them to come pick that vehicle up. There are too many other vehicles for sale that don’t have cat urine stink or cigarette smell.

Carvana and Carmax – both great places because Carmax has like a seven day return; Carvana I believe is seven days as well, so those are two great places to go.

Other things you can check.

Pull the oil stick up and see if it’s clean and bright and fresh. Pull the transmission dipstick out. If the transmission dipstick has any type of burnt residue on it, run. Are there any leaks coming from under the vehicle? Mechanically speaking, does the air conditioner work? Do you know for sure? Does it idle well? When you get in the vehicle and you crank it up, you put it in drive, put your foot on the brake and change gears. Go from park to reverse, and neutral to drive. If there’s any lunges in the transmission, that’s a telltale sign you’re going to have or you have transmission issues. If there’s any pinging in the engine, any ping sounds in the engine. Check engine light, that’s a big thing to look for. Mechanically, I think that’s about everything I know about mechanical.

Interior Car Details

Our next subject is going to be interior.

The biggest concern I get from the clients who contact us at US Auto Spa are the fact that we bought a pre-owned vehicle, it didn’t smell of cigarette smoke when we bought it, but now it smells of cigarette smoke and my wife is very sensitive to it, or I have children that are sensitive to it.

Car odor removal can be valuable when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle

Be very careful when you purchase a pre-owned vehicle. Make sure there’s no aroma of any type of strong deodorizers. That is a telltale sign of someone’s trying to cover up something. Number two, check the floorboards and make sure there’s no dampness. If there’s any moisture at all, that is a red flag.

Look in the seats and see if there’s any type of repairs that have been made. Look up to the headliner because that’s where a lot of history comes from. Do you see any type of residue on the headliner, dark black smoke. That’s a telltale sign of someone who has been smoking in the vehicle.

Pull the seat belts out. Pull the seat belts out and look, see if any stains.

Definitely open all the console, the glove boxes. You’re going to want to check to make sure if the stereo works. you’re going to make sure that all the console’s work. A couple things you want to look for to see if your vehicle has been cleaned properly. For example, on the different controls, like for example the turn signals, the gears, the lights, the radio, have all those knobs or controls or switches being clean and sterilized.

The biggest thing is a lot of pre-owned or used vehicle car dealers try to cover up smells. If you ever see any type of black mold, definitely never buy a vehicle with black mold on it.

Get your pre-owned new car professionally detailed.

A lot of dealerships will try to say that your vehicles been detailed prior to you purchasing it. But let’s face it, for the most part it’s nothing more than a quick vacuum and a wash.

I’ll tell you something to look for, when you get in a vehicle if it has a center console shift, crank it up, put your foot on the brake, and then pull it from park to drive. If that area behind that when you pull the gear down is clean, you had a thorough detailer get his hands on your vehicle.

If you purchased a pre-owned vehicle and it’s not up to your standards or are concerned about germs, we are the solution.

We bring the detail shop to you. You can do whater your day is calling for, and we come and take care of your situation for you onsite, at your convenience, at your location. Give us a call for a free quote – (770) 380-3261.

On the exterior, a couple of things to look for. The first thing you’re going to want to look for is walk around the vehicle and look if there’s any wax residue in any of the cracks or the moldings, or on the side of your mirrors. That is the first sign that someone who has gotten their hands on that vehicle that has no idea how to detail it properly. You want to see if there’s any marks. If you’re buying a darker vehicle, you want to take a bright flashlight and check the paint condition. What I mean by that is when you have a bright light on it and you shine the light into the paint, do you see any distortion, any type of swirling, swirl marks, scratching, hazing, micro marring. If you’re buying a darker car, that’s of importance to you.

Paint damage, car odors, unclean interiors are all reasons you can negotiate down the price.

Exterior Car Details

On the exterior you’re going to want to also make sure that the doors close nice and aligned. Make sure when you open the doors they open nice and smooth. You want to make sure there are no smells in the vehicle. If there is a mildew smell, you’re going to have a situation. If there’s any type of water staining, that is a red flag to there’s an issue in your vehicle. Any standing water, you know, just simple things.

How smooth is the paint? Take your hand and rub it over the surface of the hood. Does it feel smooth? Does this feel rough? Does it feel bumpy? Does it feel gritty? Does it feel grippy?

Those are all bad signs pointing to damage and that there’s no protection on the paint. US Auto Spa again can help you in that area. We offer short term and longterm coating solutions that we bring directly to you.

I hope this information helps you today. If you have any issues, US Auto Spa also specializes in odor removal, be it cigarette or even a mildew smell. Even a smell that you can’t even identify, Us Auto Spa can come, isolate that issue, eliminate it from the situation or from the environment, and do all the steps that are necessary so that the odor never comes back.

We’re not a temporary fix. US Auto Spa is long-term solutions for you, the car owner. If you have any questions, give US Auto Spa a call, (770) 380-3261.

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