Why Kick the Tires? Used Car Buying Myths Debunked
One of the most time-tested axioms regarding buying a used car is 'kicking the tires'. While many people have heard this saying, few actually know what it means, or why it is even an issue. Back in the early part of the 20th century, older tires would dry and crack. Kicking them would reveal flaws, thus giving prospective buyers an idea of the quality of the maintenance lavished upon the car by the previous owner.
Eventually, the phrase came to signify simply performing an inspection before acquiring a used car. A buyer often has very little recourse in the event of a faulty purchase, so while kicking tires is of little consequence today, performing due diligence before committing your dollars most assuredly still is.
Which brings us to other used car related myths.
1. 'Buying a used car with a warranty protects you against any eventualities.'
Nothing could be farther from the truth. All warranties are not created equally. Make sure you read all the details, and take careful note of what is covered and what is not covered under the terms of the warranty.
2. ' The cooling off period entitles you to return a car if you change your mind.'
In most cases, unless explicitly agreed upon in writing, all used car sales are final. If you're buying a used car and the seller says otherwise, make sure you get their promise in writing.
3. 'Used car buyers are protected by Lemon Laws.'
While this is true for new cars, it does not apply to used cars, even if the used car was previously bought back as a Lemon. When it comes to used cars, what you buy is what you get. Therefore, it is important to research the car as thoroughly as possible to make sure you're buying the best car you can.
4. 'The car is flawless because it has a clean Vehicle History Report (VHR).'
While a VHR can tell you a lot about the chain of ownership, they can miss poor quality collision repairs, maintenance with less than optimal parts, and quite often, accident damage in general. A vehicle history report is no substitute for a professional inspection by a trusted mechanic.
5. 'Buying a dealer's Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle (CPO) is a really great deal.'
While it's true CPO vehicles are warranted by the car dealership from which they are purchased, they will often be more expensive than a car purchased from a private seller. A good clean car bought from a private party will run just as long and serve just as well as a CPO car bought from a dealer. Additionally, the CPO warranty may not provide comprehensive coverage.
Used Car Buying Resources
6. 'Digital odometers prevent odometer fraud.'
People can alter any device created by people. Digital odometers, while more difficult to reset than the old analog ones, can be easily replaced with one showing lower mileage. The best way to get a line on the actual mileage of a car is to check typical wear items. A car's seats, floor mats, carpeting, and pedals can all give clues to the amount of usage a vehicle has experienced. If these items have been replaced and the odometer shows a low reading, the seller may have replaced them to make the odometer rollback less obvious.
7. 'Cash For Clunkers made buying a used car safer.'
While it's true many unreliable cars were taken off the road during the Cash For Clunkers program back in 2009, it's still very possible to buy a two-year-old Lemon. Plus, the economic downturn has caused many people to neglect maintenance routines, so the possibility of buying a less than optimal used car still exists.
8. 'You can get a great deal at a used car auction.'
This one is both true and false. If you're really good at evaluating the condition of a car by visual inspection alone, you might well get a good deal at an auction. However, you usually can't test drive cars at an auction, and if you aren't really knowledgeable, it's something of a gamble. Additionally, it's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of an auction and bid way more than you should for a car.