When it comes to purchasing a vehicle, oftentimes the smartest financial decision is to purchase a vehicle that is used. A used vehicle costs significantly less than a brand-new vehicle, even if it is only a couple of years old. You can save a lot of money by purchasing a used vehicle. The one big challenge behind purchasing a used vehicle though is that you don't know what the previous owner(s) put the vehicle through, which means you are going to need to check the car out carefully before buying it, to see what wear and tear it has been through since it was purchased. 

A Clear Title

To start with, before you get invested in a vehicle, find out if the vehicle has a clear title. Try to avoid branded titles, which means that the vehicle has been involved in an accident and declared a total loss. Although you can repair a vehicle that has been declared a total loss, that is a risk you are going to want to avoid taking. 

Maintenance Records

Second, find out if you can get maintenance records for the vehicle. You want to be able to know what the vehicle has been through, and how it was taken care of. Maintenance records will allow you to see if the vehicle was taken care of on time, or if maintenance was regularly skipped. It will also allow you to see what has been replaced on the vehicle due to age and time, and what upgrades you may need to make in the future. It will give you a better idea of the service costs of taking care of the vehicle. 

Vehicle History Report

Third, you are going to want to see a formal vehicle history report. This will let you see who owned the vehicle, where it was registered, and even some maintenance information. It will also tell you if it has any documented accidents and if there were any recalls issued for the vehicle. This will give you an unbiased look at the formal records for the vehicle. 

Exterior Inspection

Once you have the above information, it is time to move on to an exterior inspection. Start by looking at the wheels and tires, and make sure that the lug nuts are present, and that the rims don't have curb rash. Check and ensure that the tires are the same make and model, and that they have even wear on them. Look at the body panels, and ensure there are no gaps or damages that weren't reported to the insurance provider. Make sure the plastic housing for all the lights is intact and has the same level of wear to them.

Interior Inspection

Next, check the interior of the vehicle. Is the upholstery in good condition with the right amount of wear? Or, if the interior too stained and worn out, you may want to pass. Check for strange odors, especially musty or sour odors that may indicate mold or mildew. Ensure that the windows, driver controls, and instruments all work. 

Under the Hood 

Then, you are going to want to look under the hood. You may want to have a mechanic cover this part for you. Check all the fluids, such as engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, and brake fluid. See if the battery is in good condition, or if it is corroded. 

Test Drive

Finally, take it for a test drive. Pay attention to any sounds it makes and if there are any unusual noises or vibrations. You should also make sure that the brakes work, the steering is smooth, and the vehicle accelerates smoothly. Be sure to test out both the heat and the A/C. You can tell a lot about a vehicle during a test drive, so pay attention to what it tells you.

When you purchase a used vehicle, you are not going to get something that is perfect. However,  you want to get something that can get you around and take care of your needs. By carefully inspecting the vehicle, you can find the right used vehicle for yourself.