In today's tough economic climate, more people are opting to buy used cars instead of brand new ones. It makes sense; used cars are cheaper to buy, making them more desirable to people that need a car. Most used car purchases go according to plan, but there are some occasions where things can go wrong. To help you avoid the latter, I've compiled a list of fast facts you need to be aware of before you go and buy a used car. Here is what you need to know:

Don't buy a used car without going for a test drive

It doesn't matter if you have driven the same model of car in the past or not. Used cars go on sale in various mechanical conditions. To make sure you don't end up with a clunker, it is important that you go for a test drive in the car you are thinking of buying. If the car dealer refuses to let you drive a car or gives you some baloney excuse, walk away. When you get denied a test drive, it usually means they are trying to hide something about the vehicle's condition. However, you might find that providers who have completed the dealer license class, are more than often willing to give you the car for a test drive, and would be helpful in explaining all the details related to the car.

Inspect the car's mechanical condition

You don't need to be a mechanic to learn how to spot any obvious or potential problems in used cars. For example, if the motor has a layer of oil covering it, you can be sure there is a bad oil leak somewhere. Do the brakes make a grinding noise when you apply them? Chances are the rotors and pads will need replacing. Are you not confident in your mechanical abilities? If so, it's always best to take a mechanic friend with you when you go and see cars. Better yet, you could always pay for an independent inspection report of the car. It is where a third party auto shop or company does a thorough check of the car's conditions and reports back to you.

Do background checks on the car

Dealers like only sell legitimate vehicles. But how can you tell which dealers are reputable, and which ones are not? Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. Regardless of where you buy, make sure that you do some background checks on the car you want to buy. Some sneaky sellers try to sell cars that aren't roadworthy. Or worse still, they might be selling stolen cars! 2

Flickr / nrmadriversseat

Doing background checks will limit your exposure to risky vehicles. The last thing you want to do is buy a car that isn't legally yours to own!

Find out about common problems before you buy

There are scores of websites that list common problems with individual models. Before you go out and purchase a car, make sure the car you buy isn't going to turn into a money pit. Just because a car looks great and drives well doesn't mean it's a mechanical masterpiece! You should do your best to learn about recall notices, common faults, and safety notices.

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