Used cars are relatively more budget friendly than their brand-new counterparts. However, if approached carelessly, buying a used car may end up being more expensive. Any necessary replacements and extensive repairs that you failed to notice before buying the vehicle means additional costs out of your pocket, not to mention some of these mechanical flaws may be life-threatening. To help you pick out the right used car from the dealership, here is a comprehensive four-point checklist that you can use to filter your options.

1. Car History

Paperwork associated with the car can reveal a great deal of useful information that you, the buyer, can use to assess the true cost of the vehicle. Vehicle history reports contain information about the previous owner(s), accident history, mileage, maintenance and repair service history, state inspection and registration history, and other important facts. It’s fairly easy to get your hands on this information as well. Simply ask for the car’s VIN, or vehicle identification number, to request a report. 

2. Engine and Suspension

The next order of business is to inspect the engine and suspension systems of the car you plan to buy. Any repairs or replacements coming from either area can easily set you back for a couple of thousands of dollars. Make sure the engine is free of fluid or oil leaks. Check the oil filter neck’s condition, making sure it isn’t heavily coated with thick, black tar. The car’s engine should also be free of any odors while running. As for conducting suspension checks, make sure all sides have the same response when bouncing and that no creaking noises are audible when bouncing inside the car. 

3. Brakes and Transmission

Many of these checks will require that you take the car for a test drive. With respect to the car’s braking system, see if the vehicle steers straight and does not lean towards one side when you step on the brakes. The parking brake should also engage and disengage without much resistance. When brakes are applied, observe how the brake pedal and steering wheel react. Shaking in either part may connote an underlying problem. An automatic transmission should neither slip nor delay when running. As for manual transmission vehicles, transitioning between gears should be smooth and free of any grinding noises.

4. Interior

Even the smallest rip on a car seat can cost you a few hundred dollars when you bring it to an auto upholsterer. For more complicated repairs, such as infotainment system repairs, you can expect to foot a bigger bill. Make sure all seats are not worn out and are free of rips and cracks. All doors should also open and close smoothly. While the car is running, turn the dashboard dials and buttons to make sure the A/C, heater, gauges, windshield wipers, sunroof, and power windows work. 

Buying a used car is an exciting time in one’s life, especially if it’s your first car. Don’t let excitement cloud your judgment by using these four points to gain a better understanding of what you’re actually buying for the sticker price.