Questions to Consider When Buying a Vehicle

Our VP of Consumer Lending Norm Dufton has spent over 25 years helping people buy cars. He was nice enough to write out some of his thoughts on car buying.

So often done at the spur of a moment, buying a car can be an emotional action. This normally ends in a buyer overpaying for a car that may not be what they want. It’s important to ask yourself some important questions.

Did it live in Canada or the Northern US?

We appreciate our mild winters here, but Being in the far north, they have road salts and the unusual factor of “hours” on the engine. This isn’t always obvious in the miles driven, but cars run to keep warm.

Did you run a Carfax or Autocheck

This can have valuable info about previous accidents, where the car came from. It also often has maintenance records. This will catch most repairs, but it’s important to remember that these aren’t a guarantee that there have no accidents. Work by small shops that do the repair for cash, or even from a car rental may not be reported.

How many owners has it had?

While it’s certainly not true for every vehicle, the more owners a car or truck has had, the more likely it is to have issue. A multiple owner vehicle hurts resale value when you’re ready to sell. That doesn’t mean a multiple owner car or truck isn’t a good deal, just make sure you are aware of its history, and factor that history into the price you pay.

Has it been reconditioned?

Reconditioning is the process done by many high-quality lots where they have the car evaluated, back maintenance and repairs made. Most of the cars on Wauna Car have been reconditioned. They may touch up scratches. Is the car for sale private party? From a new car franchise? From a car lot that just has inexpensive cars? With private party cars and some small lots with inexpensive cars may or may not do reconditioning. How can I know if these things have been done? You may not. Some lots just clean a car, band aid any needed repairs and sell the car.

Am I paying market value?

This too is a tough thing to know. There are places like Kelley Blue Book and the NADA guide. These are good estimates of value and are often used by lenders to figure how much they will lend. These guides are very good for vehicles that have a lot of comparable sales and have normal miles. They do their best, but if a car doesn’t have many comparable sales, they can be off, high or low. A good example is a car with high miles. There is a mileage adjustment, but it does take condition or how marketable a car will be if resold. Our lending team can help with the value of a vehicle if needed.

Will maintenance be expensive?

When buying a car, where its bought, the condition, the miles, the level of maintenance. If its dependable, what will it cost to insure? Is maintenance expensive? I did some research and was surprised to find the Chrysler Sebring, Chevy Cobalt, Subaru Forrester, Ram 1500, Dodge Grand Caravan, Mazda 6 were all in the top 20 for most expensive cars to maintain. While the least expensive were the Prius, Kia Soul and other small cars. The credit union does offer service contracts that can help offset the cost of unexpected vehicle issues, but remember that his always optional, whether you get your car through us or somebody else. And if somebody does make it mandatory, take that as a cue to run away.

This is why one should take their time, consider, narrow things down and check on the models you like, then start the search.

How can I confirm the vehicle I am looking to purchase is in good, working order?

Find a good deal on a well-planned choice to take the emotion out of buying a car. Use a used car checklist, and have the vehicle looked at by a disinterested 3rd party. You can find a lot online, but this one from Nationwide is a good one. Your personal mechanic if you have one will be best. Don’t use a shop recommended by the seller. They may be associated.

What should I consider when purchasing my first car?

For your first car, you should consider reliability and a car you can have a strong expectation of low cost of ownership. This way you don’t have many unexpected costs for repairs. Low miles and newer instead of trying to find what you really want. Give yourself some experience with car payments and other costs of ownership.