Purchasing a Used Vehicle

With over 1 million registered vehicles on the roads in Hawaii, finding a reliable vehicle is important. When purchasing a vehicle, price and fuel economy were important factors when shopping for a new vehicle. But, whether you are purchasing a new or used vehicle, what else should you consider when looking for a car?

  • Once you decide on the type of car you need, it is important to do your research; a number of publications and automotive websites (such as kellybluebook.com, Edmunds.com, caranddriver.com, cars.com and automotive.com) can provide information rating the vehicles within specific categories. In addition, ask friends what they like and dislike about their cars.
  • Test driving a vehicle is the best way to determine if it is the right one for you. The goal of a test drive is to experience — as closely as possible — the same type of driving conditions the car will be used for after purchase.
    • When you are test driving the vehicle take your time and make sure you are comfortable in the driver's seat. Check to see if all controls and gauges are clearly visible and within reach. How is the visibility – are there any blind spots?
    • Don't be distracted by the salesperson or drive with the radio on. Check for noise levels; do you hear engine noise coming through the cockpit? Is the turn signal too loud? Are there any unusual vibrations or jolts when you go over rough roads?
  • If you are purchasing a vehicle for your teenager, most of today's cars are better designed for crash protection (with options such as airbags). Consider purchasing a mid to full size car which offer more than adequate crash protection. The National Highway Safety Administration recommends vehicles weighing at least 3,300 pounds for teen drivers.

What to look for if you are purchasing a used vehicle:

  • The car should start easily and without excessive noise. Once the car has warmed up, listen for engine noise as you drive; unusual sounds may be signs of major trouble. Drive over rough road surfaces; watch for unusual vibrations, noises, or odors.
  • Try turning at various speeds. Too much sway or stiffness can mean bad shocks and/or front end problems. Turn the wheel all the way from one side to the other; power steering should be smooth, with little or no squealing.
  • Do any of the tires show signs of excessive wear? Mismatched tires can indicate alignment problems, or replacement following an accident. Uneven wear on the front tires usually indicates either bad alignment, or front suspension damage. Also, do not forget to check the spare tire.
  • Look for these signs of odometer tampering: white lines between the numbers that do not line up, or vibration of the 1/10-mile numbers while the car is moving.

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