Your old car isn’t getting it done, and buying a used car seems like the only option for you as an Uber or Lyft driver. Maybe your current vehicle keeps having problems or maybe it’s just time for an upgrade. Whether purchasing a car with a rideshare career in mind or simply looking for something new, spending an average of $36,000 dollars doesn’t sound ideal. Instead, spending around 20 grand for a used car might seem more appealing.
However, not every used car had a great previous owner. Some used cars might be on the verge of being sent to the shredder. Other cars might be in top condition with only a few thousand miles logged. Needless to say, you want to pay attention to specific things about the car and ask the right questions when you start shopping used cars.
What Do I Look For When Buying a Used Car?
After you’ve set your budget you can begin your search. Check your local dealership, online and any other car buying apps you may like. As you search for cars, and later test drive them, be aware of these four important factors that key into a vehicle’s condition.
When choosing a car model, pay attention to what will most suit your needs rather than what looks the best. Online resources like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds give information on the different features various models have.
Sometimes the model clues you into which cars will last longer. For instance, Toyota Camrys are known for their longevity. A discussion thread on Toyotanation.com recorded that many Camrys are said to have traveled over 300k miles. Other cars might not have the longevity of a Toyota Camry, but they have other features that a Camry doesn’t.
The model of a car can also determine how expensive future repairs might be and which rideshare services you’re able to offer.
Although some cars can last for miles, as the Camry mentioned above, most drivers keep from purchasing a car with less than 100,000 miles. Although having a low mileage isn’t necessary, it’s a good benchmark for less experienced car buyers. Some budgets don’t allow for a low-mileage car, but some higher-mileage cars may be well maintained and good purchases.
No doubt you’ve heard: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But we all know we do. A car is no different. Many times the physical condition of the car is a telltale sign of the condition of the car’s inner workings. If the outside hasn’t been well maintained, what stories might the inside tell? Red flags tend to reveal signs of poor maintenance or a problem that can only be temporarily fixed. Some of those red flags are:
Surface imperfections – Dents, scratches and rust spots can be repaired later, but make sure to look for paint overspray on the body panels or frame. The overspray is a sign of repainting from the last repair.
Broken lights – Burnt-out bulbs are typically and easy fix. If the car owner hasn’t fixed it before putting the car on sale, be careful. There might be a bigger and more expensive problem (like wiring) that the owner simply doesn’t want to fix.
Uneven tire wear – Uneven wear is a sign of bad wheel alignment. You don’t want that. To test for uneven wear, place a penny in multiple tread grooves and look for differences in the tread’s height.
Poorly maintained upholstery – Although this might not affect your driver experience, remember your rideshare company’s requirements for your car’s cosmetic conditions. Replacing upholstery can be very expensive and might not be a cost you’re willing to suffer.
Issues under the hood – Make sure there are no signs of rust, corrosion, cracks or black spots under the hood. Also, check the engine oil and transmission fluid levels. What’s under the hood is what keeps your car running, and you’ll want to make sure everything there is in good condition.
Remember to check everything about the car, not just what’s listed here, for damage and wear.
Condition when driving
A test drive is crucial when choosing which car to purchase. As you drive, take note of a few things:
Brakes – Maybe you don’t want to test your seatbelts too soon but pay attention to your brake’s functionality. Does it vibrate or require a lot of pressure?
Driving experience – Does your speed hold steady as you drive? How well does the engine accelerate? Hopefully, the steering wheel isn’t difficult to turn either.
Sounds – Hearing any strange sounds – squeaking, grinding and rattling – are giveaways that there might be something wrong with the car.
Extras – Air conditioning, radio, and warning lights are smaller things to check, but worth the extra once-over.
In the end, make sure you’re comfortable as you drive the car. You’ll be spending a lot of time in that seat.
Making sure you mark off everything from this checklist might seem overwhelming but will be well worth your time. Whether purchasing a new ride for personal use or for your rideshare job, your decision about which vehicle to buy is ultimately up to you. So, get out there and start searching!
We’d love to hear some of your car buying stories.
For our full guide on driving for Uber or Lyft, check out this article here. Tell us your story in a comment below, and feel free to give us article suggestions about what interests you.