Aside from the fact that you are not buying a vehicle right out of the factory, getting a used car comes with a lot of risks you may not have considered versus a brand new one. Most used cars for sale are available ‘as is’, which means that what you see is what you get. If you buy a used car with rotting tires, a rusted body, dead battery, and broken door locks, that’s what you’re getting. Hence, you should be extra careful.
In Florida, there are a few factors that come into play that car buyers in many other states won’t worry so much about. From flood damage to excessive corrosion from salt air, we’ve put tother a checklist to help you make a more informed decision when buying your car in Florida and especially Pinellas County, Florida.
The general rule is always to beware and be careful. If possible, bring a mechanic with you or get someone who knows their way with vehicles. Inspect the car and report whatever potential issues you may find. Sometimes, you can use these issues to negotiate, but these could also be a dealbreaker.
There is no period called “cooling off,” which allows you to return the vehicle without penalty and cancel the sales agreement in Florida. So, once you sign the documents, the sale is considered final. There is the Florida lemon law, but for this to be enforceable many factors must be proven and it can be a giant headache to go this route. In this article, we will give you some tips on what things to remember when buying a used car.
Used Car Buying Checklist
*Note: This is a list of the most overlooked factors to check along with issues more unique to cars for sale in Florida
You can often smell mold. If mold exists there could be severe water damage due to flooding. The mold itself is also very bad for your health.
Although bad accidents the car has been involved in should be reported and visible on the vehicle history report, it is possible the accident was not reported. One way to notice frame damage is by driving the car. Odd vibrations are a warning sign. Take the car onto the interstate to further assess for frame damage. Take the car to a mechanic who can lift the vehicle and inspect it underneath.
Often overlooked by buyers is the lighting systems of cars as they are most frequently purchased in the daytime. If you have a friend with you, use the two-person method to test the lights.
- Tail lights
- Brake lights
- Reverse Lights
- Interior lights
Do not assume that fixing a light is as simple as a bulb replacement. In today’s modern cars all sorts of computer-related issues can cause a very difficult to fix problems.
Test the locks on all doors. If there is keyless entry, double-check it both locks and unlocks all doors.
Double-check that windows go up and down. If there’s a sunroof, test its function.
Be aware the seller might not be too thrilled with this test, but you’re likely about to spend some serious money so they should allow it. Take a gallon jug of water (or a nearby hose) and dump it onto the roof of the car near the sunroof. Do not assume a potential leak will come directly out from the interior sunroof area of the car. Of course, check that, but also check drivers’ and passengers’ side floorboards for drips coming into the interior.
Double-check the spare tire and tire jack are where they should be. If needed, Google the car on the spot to figure out where this location is.
You’ll need to stop by the local dollar store and pickup a few cheap white posters for this one. Once looking at the car, first, make sure all fluids are topped off. Take the car on a minimum of 15 minutes test drive. Immediately upon return place the posters under the engine. Wait ten minutes. Pull the posters out and assure there is not fluid in them.
Check to assure all seats function properly. Use the levers and buttons to move the seats forward, backward and up and down (if possible).
This is especially true when it comes to buying used cars, trucks and SUVs in Florida. Along our coastline (OfferMORE is located in Pinellas County, Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico), the Seabreeze can carry corrosive salt air miles inland and affect the rate at which rust and corrosion occur tenfold. Using a mirror to look under the car and along the fenders is a great method of checking for rust. A more simple method is to simply open all the doors and look for both rust and recently painted areas within the door jams. Car sellers know that rust is something buyers are looking for and will often sand and paint these areas.
To check and see if the vehicle is properly aligned, take it to a parking lot free of any tilt or hills. At a speed of roughly 10mph while driving straight, remove your hands from the wheel and see if the car badly pulls to one side or the other. Although an alignment can often fix this, be aware it is possibly happening due to previous frame or suspension damage incurred during an accident.
Do Your Research
If you don’t speak Car And Driver or are not that familiar with cars, doing your research should be the first step. You can check online sources or visit a local bookstore or library to look for reference materials about various car brands and models and comparative costs. From these, you should have an idea of what kind of used vehicle you want to buy.
The next thing is to research where you can get pre-approved for financing. If you don’t have enough cash to buy that car, you’ll need an auto loan. When you get pre-approved, you’ll know how much you can spend and how much negotiating power you have once you talk to the dealer.
You should also look at websites like AutoTrader.com to get reliable ideas on the current market price of used vehicles. If possible, go for Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, as those come with an extended warranty.
Next, you should decide if you’re buying from a private seller or a dealer. If you prefer the latter, be prepared to make a comparison with the nearest dealers and check out their reviews. Places like Yelp and Google are where you can read reviews and testimonials from past clients. You should also check their customer service history from the Better Business Bureau.
Get A Vehicle History Report
Once you’ve decided where to buy your vehicle and which one to get, get a vehicle history report. Ask the dealer or seller to give you either an AutoCheck or CARFAX report. This report contains odometer logs, airbag deployments, and collision history.
In addition, make sure to inspect the physical state of the vehicle – including both the exterior and interior. Check the doors and fenders for cracks or chipped paint. Note all the wear and tear and check for any sign of water damage. You should also take the vehicle for a few spins and a test drive. Most experts advise that you test drive the vehicle cold to reveal any hidden issue.
Do Not Buy Vehicles with Rebuilt Title
What is a rebuilt title? This is a salvage title issued to a used vehicle after being rehabilitated. In some cases, there’s nothing wrong with buying a rebuilt title, but you have to be extra careful. These vehicles were salvaged from extensive collision damage, water damage, or fire damage. Some are manufacturer buyback after lemon-law claims.
Since a rebuilt title is one that’s been salvaged from previous damage, you might have more work to deal with compared to the average used car. You might even need to spend more money on repairs and maintenance. Hence, it’s better to steer clear of this as much as possible.
Inspect and Test Drive
Buying a used vehicle doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. You will find high-quality used cars that can still perform like new if you know where to look. So, you must inspect and test drive the vehicle you are planning to buy to see how well it performs.
You should test drive the vehicle on a highway and check for any odd vibrations and noises. Check for any possible issues like thick smoke coming from the exhaust or any other performance-related problems that might result in extensive repairs in the future.
Various consumer protection statutes in Florida will protect you from illegal and unethical business practices. However, no “lemon law” or something similar can protect you when buying used vehicles. Hence, ensuring that you get what your money’s worth falls solely upon you. As such, always be vigilant and beware of offers that are too good to be true.
Sell Before You Buy
Maximize your buying power for that used car purchase by selling your current car to OfferMORE before you buy.