How to Buy a Safe Used Car

There are some benefits to buying a used car. Of course, the big one is that it will be cheaper than buying a new car. You might be able to buy a used car with cash, avoiding having a monthly payment. 

At the same time, you have to make sure you’re buying a safe car. 

Some types of used cars may be riskier than others. Certain features or lack thereof can contribute to an increased risk of being in an accident. 

If you’re buying a used car for a new teen driver, this can be an even bigger concern. 

The following are things to keep in mind when it comes to buying a used car that’s safe and reliable. 

Steps to Buying a Used Car

General steps to keep in mind when buying a used car include:

  • Decide on a make and model before you start your car search. If you have this in mind, not only is it going to simplify your search, but it’s also going to help you find something that has a reputation for safety and reliability. If you don’t already have a make and model in mind when you start the process to find a used car, you may think something is such a great deal that you can’t refuse it. That car might not end up being safe or reliable. Give yourself a framework to work from. 
  • Don’t buy a car sight unseen, and if you can avoid it, don’t buy one from another state. 
  • Check for safety recalls. This is so important. There are tens of millions of cars currently on the road right now under a safety recall. Cars with a safety recall are unsafe, plain and simple. Some of the common defects that lead to a recall include losing steering axels for braking and stalling in traffic. Issues with airbags are also common reasons for recalls. 
  • If you’re thinking about buying a particular car and want to know if it’s under recall, you can get the VIN and check online for free on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s site. 
  • Having the VIN before buying a car will also let you check the federal database of total loss and stolen cars. 

The Most Dangerous Cars

According to the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, some cars may be more dangerous than others when assessing how often they’re involved in accidents. 

Contributing factors to how safe or unsafe a vehicle might include size and weight and overall safety features. 

Some of the most dangerous cars are:

  • The Nissan Versa Note: This little Hatchback is being discontinued, but that doesn’t mean you might not see it available as a used car. Most of the worst-performing cars in terms of safety are subcompact, including this one. 
  • Kia Soul: A Kia Sole is a bit bigger than the note, but it’s still small overall. New and used models are still available and relatively popular
  • Chevrolet Camaro: This car isn’t dangerous because of its small size. Instead, it’s a car that tends to be associated with going at high speeds. It’s a powerful car as well, but it does have good crash testing ratings. 
  • Kia Rio: The Rio is one of the cheapest cars on the market, which has a certain appeal. It is linked to accidents, though, and there are some weak points on its crash tests, especially when it comes to injuries to backseat passengers in the event of a side impact. 
  • Nissan Versa: Like the Rio, the Versa is one of the cheapest cars in America, but it has only average crash test ratings in nearly every category. 
  • Honda Fit: The Fit is a hatchback, and people rank it as fun to drive, but it’s involved in more deadly accidents than a lot of other types of accidents. 

Inspect a Car Yourself

When you go to initially look at a car, first inspect it yourself. Know what red flags to look for right away. 

For example, maybe you see parts that don’t seem to fit quite right, unevenly worn tires or perhaps signs of flood damage like rust in strange places or a musty smell. 

If you see anything that seems problematic just by looking at a car yourself, it’s probably best not to buy it. 

Then, once you inspect it yourself, you should always take a car to be inspected by a reliable and experienced mechanic before agreeing to buy it. Only once the car has checked out, in the mechanic’s opinion, should you ask to test drive it. 

What Are Lemon Laws?

Lemon laws are worth noting in a discussion about buying a safe used car. 

Lemon laws tend to apply primarily to new cars, but in some cases, this can be relevant to used cars as well. 

Around 1% of all new cars in the U.S. have unfixable problems. Every state has some type of lemon law to protect consumers who buy a defective car. 

If you buy a used car, to qualify for lemon laws in most states, the defect must be covered by the warranty. In some cases, the defect must occur within a certain number of miles. 

Again, as long as a used car was sold with a written warranty, lemon laws apply. Many times used cars are still sold while they have a manufacturer or dealer warranty. 

If a car meets lemon law requirements in your state, you may have the right to a replacement car or a refund. The process of going about this is different in every state. 

If you’re buying a used car that’s significantly older, even with major problems, lemon laws are unlikely to apply. 

When you’re buying a used car, take your time, and do your research. Yes, you want a good deal, but safety needs to be a priority as well. If a deal seems too good to be true, there’s a very high likelihood that it is.

About the Author Long Le

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