Top 10 Things to Do after Buying a Used Car

This article originally appeared on The Financially Independent Millennial and was republished with permission.

When consumers purchase a car, there are several things to think about. While the primary process has been handled entirely with test drives and dealerships or private sellers, it’s up to you to continue further down the checklist to get the most out of a used car.

People might think that there’s nothing left to do after buying a car, but don’t forget to take the steps needed to keep a used car on track.

1. Get the Car Insured

When you buy a car, the first thing to always do is to get insurance before leaving the car lot. Getting into an accident just after leaving is a terrifying possibility after spending hard-earned money on a car, even if it’s a used car. Either way, it’s an investment, and buyers need to protect themselves.

It’s a good idea to call around before purchasing the car model you have in mind to get a quote. If that didn’t happen before, getting the best car insurance must be the top priority to get taken care of once a vehicle is purchased. Some dealerships require buyers to have insurance before leaving, so being ready with insurance is imperative for a good experience.

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    2. Check for Existing Recalls

    Recalls happen in brand-new and used vehicles as technology changes over time. Sometimes, manufacturers will send out information for a recall because of a necessary update, too. Certain recalls can also affect driver or passenger safety, so recalls cannot be ignored.

    After the purchase is complete, buyers can find information about recalls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Get the vehicle identification number or VIN from the car to complete a search. It’s also a good idea to check for recalls multiple times a year because new recalls are released periodically. 

    3. Transfer the Title

    If a car is purchased from a dealership, the dealership typically handles the title transfer. The title is the official document that proves ownership, so if you buy privately, it’s critical to get this taken care of as soon as possible after purchase.

    When purchasing from a private seller, buyers need to verify liens do not exist from the previous owner. If there are, those need to be handled immediately. Buyers need proof that the seller has documents that prove any loans have been paid as required. If a buyer has any questions about transferring a title, the DMV needs to be contacted for state-specific answers.

    4. Get the Car Registered

    Once a car has been purchased, it must be registered with the DMV soon after. Car dealers will typically handle getting the vehicle registered in the buyer’s name, but it’s different when working with a private seller. Private sellers should provide documentation to the buyer to show to the DMV to get the registration done.

    Some of the documents needed include the bill of sale showing the purchase price, the title that has been signed over by the previous owner, the VIN, proof of insurance, odometer reading, sales tax if applicable, and evidence of passed inspections. Buyers also need to contact the local DMV to find out if any further documents are required.

    5. Find a Trusted Mechanic

    Finding a mechanic can be challenging, which is one reason that buyers may prefer to purchase from a well-respected dealership. Dealerships have mechanics on staff that are responsible for conducting an inspection and doing any preventative maintenance before the purchase.

    Private sellers are different, and buyers need to be aware of getting a used car with issues. Ideally, the vehicle should be checked before purchase, but it needs to have a thorough inspection done when that’s not possible. When in need of a trusted mechanic, buyers should research reviews and request recommendations from local groups to get an idea of who to trust.

    6. Schedule Any Necessary Repairs

    Once the mechanic has had a chance to complete an inspection, it may be recommended to replace spark plugs, belts, or any frayed wires, along with any other issues. There may also be cosmetic issues that may need to be dealt with if the buyer deems these repairs are essential.

    Some repairs may be more critical than others, so depending on what the mechanic says, there may be a list that needs to be followed. It’s possible that the new owner might need to prioritize repairs to get things done over time. If that turns out to be the case, working out a schedule with a trusted mechanic will be a great way to get things done.

    7. Read the Owner’s Manual 

    It’s a good idea to read the owner’s manual to get to know your newly purchased vehicle inside and out. It may not be full of entertaining reading, but knowing what the lights on the dashboard mean can be helpful should they come on. Buyers can also read about any potential existing warranties that might still apply to the car.

    Getting to know more about the car is helpful because new owners can learn about what to expect regarding the engine and other internal components of the vehicle. It also gives the owner a chance to become familiar with some of the more specific details about different parts of the car.

    8. Create a Maintenance Schedule

    Using the manual, buyers can also get to know what the regular maintenance schedule is for the car. Each manual contains a suggested maintenance schedule, so a buyer knows what to expect and plan for in the future. Sticking with the recommended schedule can help in saving money over time, too.

    Maintenance is a crucial part of being a responsible car owner. That includes keeping an eye on the wear and tear of tires, keeping up with oil changes, and getting regular tune-ups. Finding a trusted mechanic is essential in keeping car maintenance from becoming overwhelming.

    9. Consider an Extended Warranty

    When purchasing a used car, buyers may also want to consider a used car warranty. There are many different options available for warranties that range from expensive repairs to bumper-to-bumper coverage. Buyers should still do research to figure out the best options available.

    Keep in mind that some warranties appear to be scams, so researching is vital in making the best selection. Buyers should also check for any specific fine print regarding repairs and coverage. Some warranties are only effective at particular mechanics, so those might be ones to steer clear from.

    10. Get Familiar with Features

    Once the car is ready to go, buyers need to familiarize themselves with the car’s features. Learning what all of the buttons do is vital because the last thing anyone wants to deal with is trying to figure out how to open the gas tank at an inopportune time. Knowing how to program the dashboard is helpful, too, to enjoy driving to the perfect soundtrack.

    Features go beyond the buttons, though, and include levers for seats and the position of latches if installing a car seat is an essential aspect of the car. Finding out where all of the power outlets are is also important so owners can charge their gadgets as needed.

    A Few Last Words on What to Do after Purchasing a Used Car

    There’s a lot to think about after purchasing a used car. Getting car insurance and title transfers are essential to getting started. Finding out about recalls is critical to keeping the car safe for drivers and passengers. Once registration is complete, it’s time to get the car inspected by a trusted mechanic.

    After that, it’s all about creating a schedule for repairs or maintenance to get the most out of a newly purchased car. Getting familiar with the features is also essential to feel comfortable with a new car, even if it’s a used car, because it will be new to you.

    Once all of the necessary tasks are done, it’s time to get down to the fun stuff, like finding the accessories that reflect your personality. Adding some exciting goodies to a vehicle should be a part of what it means to have a new car. Taking care of it with regular car washes and giving the car some character is the icing on the cake. When everything is squared away, it’s time to take a drive and enjoy your new car experience.

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