If you’ve just begun the Uber or Lyft vehicle-shopping process, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the number of makes and models available within just about every price range. However, if your searches have shown that a used vehicle is likely to make more financial sense for your budget, you may be wondering what you can do to ensure the vehicle you purchase still has plenty of life left.
With many of today’s vehicles easily able to travel hundreds of thousands of miles without requiring major repairs, there has never been a better time to buy used. Still, it’s important to know what to look for while you’re vehicle shopping to ensure your ultimate purchase will serve you well for many years. Read on for four tips and tricks to help you select a high-quality, high-mileage used vehicle.
1. Confirm Mileage
For decades, used autos had a less-than-stellar reputation due in large part to a vocal minority of unscrupulous sellers; some were known for rolling back vehicle odometers to advertise them as “low mileage.” By simply rolling back the “1” on a vehicle with more than 100,000 miles, sellers could pull out the “little old lady” trope, claiming that the vehicle had been owned by an elderly individual who simply used it to drive to church or the grocery store once or twice per week.
The advent of digital odometers in most vehicles, along with more punitive laws regarding falsification of vehicle records, has largely eliminated this practice; however, it’s important to confirm the mileage of any vehicle you’re considering by asking for a copy of its Carfax report. This report should indicate any potential discrepancies or gaps that could prompt you to ask a few follow-up questions, and honest dealerships are happy to verify the accuracy of their recordkeeping.
2. Investigate Service History
The average vehicle on the road today is nearly eleven years old. Over this period of time, a vehicle should undergo a number of service and maintenance procedures, from oil changes and tire rotations to coolant flushes and brake replacements.
If the used vehicle you’re considering doesn’t have a well-documented service history, you may be facing a number of deferred maintenance tasks that could ultimately shorten the life of the vehicle. While it’s likely some of these maintenance processes may have been performed but simply not recorded, your best bet is generally to look at only vehicles that can demonstrate a history of timely maintenance.
In addition to ensuring this maintenance was performed, you’ll also want to do a bit more digging to ensure the maintenance was properly performed. Simple things like using the wrong type of oil for your vehicle make and model could lead to engine problems, while installing the wrong brake pads or too-large rotors could result in premature wear and tear on your brake system.
3. Look Out For Rust
While high mileage isn’t a concern in and of itself, many high-mileage vehicles have been driven in areas with snow, sleet, or ocean air: all prime causes of vehicle rust. Although rust can be treated and rust damage reversed when caught early, purchasing a high-mileage vehicle that has some rust damage could set you up for future problems.
Not only can rust be an eyesore, rust that affects your undercarriage can damage your exhaust system or key components of your vehicle like the drive shaft or oil pan. By carefully inspecting your prospective vehicle to ensure all the paint is original, you’ll be able to rest assured that your vehicle has been well cared-for and maintained. Seeing patches of touch-up paint can indicate the previous owner attempted to repair rust damage him- or herself.
If you do opt to purchase a vehicle that has some surface rust, you’ll want to make an appointment with a body shop to have this damage professionally repaired. Doing so can significantly extend the life of your vehicle while helping you identify any potential problem areas that may need to be monitored going forward.
4. Test Drive For Burning Oil
One of the primary complications that can come with a high-mileage engine is an increase in its oil consumption. Engines have many plastic and rubber components like seals and hoses, and the wear and tear on these seals that comes with high mileage can cause them to become degraded and less effective.
While most of these seals and hoses can be easily and inexpensively replaced, they don’t always manifest themselves in an obvious manner. For example, you may not realize you have a leaky seal until your low oil light comes on, which can indicate a dangerously low oil level that may have already caused some damage to your engine.
As a result, you may want to take your prospective vehicle on an extended test drive, checking the oil dipstick before you leave and after you return to observe any difference in the oil level. An engine that burns some oil doesn’t need to be a dealbreaker but should be a factor when negotiating your sale price.