Do Your Research:
With the right preparation, buying a car “as is” can be a worthwhile experience. To start, you’ll want to research the car you want and get familiar with any known issues. We recommend checking out online forums and reading articles. Try to learn as much as you can about the exact year, make, and model you’re interested in. You may discover that although a vehicle is generally reliable, certain parts may tend to wear out and need to be replaced.
Try to get as specific as possible in your research. Some cars have issues that are isolated to a model year, trim, or engine option. If the engine mounts are known to wear out after 80,000 miles, then it’s important to pay attention to the mileage while you shop. You should also keep an eye out for ways to easily identify a particular problem. This could be anything from discoloration to specific noises that occur while driving. Take note of the potential repair costs and factor them into your budget.
Order a Vehicle History Report:
Before you buy a used car, you’ll want to know its history. Specifically, you’ll want to know whether it was involved in any accidents. You can purchase a vehicle history report from services like CarFax or Experian’s AutoCheck, which receive data on reported events such as change of ownership, accident damage, and theft. This provides a better idea of the car’s previous life. It’s also helpful for verifying information provided by the dealership, such as the number of owners.
Keep in mind that while a vehicle history report is often invaluable, it will only reflect data that has been reported to the service. When a vehicle is damaged and repaired out of pocket rather than through insurance, the incident can go unreported and may not show up in any records. This is especially important for a vehicle that’s sold “as is.” What looks like a clean bill of health can inspire confidence, but it should never replace a physical inspection.
Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection:
Whether it is new or used, buying a car is always a big decision. A pre-purchase inspection can go a long way, especially if a warranty isn’t available. Before you buy, we recommend working with a third party who can physically inspect the vehicle. This can be a mechanic or someone who knows their way around cars—ideally the make and model you are looking for. The goal is to identify any problems and help ensure a worry-free ownership experience.
So who should you ask? The simplest solution is a friend or family member who can accompany you to the dealership and physically inspect the vehicle. You can also work with an independent mechanic. They will usually require a fee for this service, but you can think of this as a small investment that will likely pay dividends during ownership. You can also ask about getting the vehicle inspected at a franchise dealership, which may have factory-trained technicians.
Know Your Options:
While you won’t get a dealer warranty with a car sold “as is,” you do have options if you’re willing to purchase a third-party warranty. Companies like Endurance and CarShield offer warranties for used vehicles, which can pay off if you need major repairs. But the value of a third-party warranty may vary for owners. After all, the amount you pay for the warranty could instead be used to supplement your total budget, allowing you to purchase a vehicle in better condition or with lower mileage.
Certified pre-owned vehicles are another option that includes a warranty and are often recent model years with lower mileage. These vehicles are required to undergo a multipoint inspection to pass the certification process. You can also expect additional benefits like 24-hour roadside assistance. Certified pre-owned vehicles usually command a small premium over their used counterparts, but the peace of mind is often worth the price of admission.