Buying used cars is a great way to save some money, but those savings can quickly vanish under a pile of expensive repairs if you don't treat your new (to you) car right. Making the most out of a used car purchase means taking proper care of it from day one, and that may mean dealing with some maintenance items that the previous owner or owners have chosen to defer. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your used car provides you with years and years of reliable service.
Replace Fluids Immediately
Unless your car came with maintenance records indicating that the fluids were changed on a regular schedule and that the most recent fluid change was handled recently, then one of the most important things you can do is to replace those fluids as soon as you get the car home. At a minimum, plan on having the oil changed using the manufacturer's recommended oil specs. In addition to this, it is a good idea to also flush and replace the coolant and consider flushing and replacing the brake fluid as well. For rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive cars, check the manufacturer's recommendations for differential fluid changes.
Evaluate Brakes and Tires
Although it's best to do this before purchasing your car, make sure that you know how much life is left in both your tires and your brakes. These are the two most important safety items on your vehicle, so dealing with issues immediately is important. For tires, be sure that you aren't simply checking the tread depth. It is also important to make sure that the tires do not have unusual wear patterns such that might indicate a problem with the car's alignment, steering, or suspension. Brakes should be checked with the vehicle safely raised off of the ground and the wheels removed so that the thickness of the brake pads can be measured.
Have a Post-Purchase Inspection
A post-purchased inspection is a routine check-up for your car. During a post-purchase inspection, a mechanic will carefully inspect your car for any obvious signs of trouble. A post-purchase inspection is a good idea even if you already had a pre-purchase inspection performed, as you will be able to authorize your mechanic to do more in-depth checks of your vehicle's components. This inspection will help you to determine if your car may have any outstanding issues that need to be fixed immediately. It may also highlight minor issues which are not of immediate concern, but which will need to be fixed eventually.
Deal with Deferred Maintenance
If your inspection turns up signs that the previous owner deferred maintenance, such as worn shocks, minor leaks, and so on, then it's time to start dealing with them. Make a list of items that need to be repaired on the car and prioritize them based on