You're looking to buy your teenager's first car, but you don't want to spend a ton of money. The solution? – A used car from a local owner. You've scouted out the classified ads and have found a few options that you believe could be your teen's first car; however, you do want to exercise some caution and fully check out the car before you make a purchase. After all, you don't want the car to die a few days after you buy it and you certainly don't want to let your teen drive a car that could be hazardous.
Here are some tips to keep in mind before you decide to purchase a used car from a private owner.
Make Sure the Seller is the Owner
Before you even inspect the vehicle or get behind the wheel of the vehicle, make sure you ask the seller if he or she is the owner of the car. If the answer is yes, ask if you can see the title. If the answer is no, walk away. If the person is selling the car for a family member, he or she may not know much about its history. Or, the seller could be flipping cars, which opens a whole different can of worms that you really don't want to open (the car could be stolen or it could be from a junkyard).
Take it for a Thorough Test Drive
Go for a test drive, and not just a five-minute test drive, but a good, long drive. Most cars can be rigged to drive fine for five minutes, so you really want to take it out and give it a good drive. Drive on local roads so that you can test out the brakes and see how it starts up from a stop. Take it on the highway to see how it drives at high speeds. If the car shimmies or shakes, the wheels may need to be balanced or there could be a problem with the suspension. Drive over some speed bumps to test the suspension.
While you're test driving the car, make sure you check out all of the other components; turn on the heating and air conditioning; roll the windows up and down; move the seats forward and backward; turn the lights on and off; turn on the wipers. If you notice anything that's concerning, make sure to mention it to the seller.
Get it Inspected
Take the car to a trusted mechanic and have it inspected. You may have to shell out a few bucks to have this inspection done, but it will be well-worth the investment. A trusted mechanic like one from Henry's Tire will be able to tell you whether or not the car is a good investment, or if it's ready for the scrap yard.
With these tips, you can purchase your teen a used car that is a real peach instead of a lemon.