After You Buy a Used Car…
1. Update Your Important Accounts and Paperwork
First things first — you need to stay legal! No matter what state you’re in, you can’t drive on public roads unless your vehicle is registered. If you buy a used car at a dealership, they’ll usually help you with the paperwork so you can drive with temporary registration before leaving the lot. They may charge a small fee, but it’s worth it if you just can’t wait to get in the driver’s seat.
In some states, like Maryland, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Michigan, to name few, you can complete the whole vehicle registration process at the dealership.
This is also the right time to contact your car insurance company and update your policy. You may need to adjust your level of coverage. For instance, if you’ve been driving an old beater around for the last few years, there’s a good chance you didn’t have Comprehensive and Collision coverage on your policy. Sometimes it doesn’t make financial sense to pay for these two coverages on an older model vehicle. However, if you’re now driving a used car that’s only a few years old, you might want to include Comprehensive and Collision, as they could help pay for repairs to your sweet new ride in the event of accident or collision.
If you bought the car used from a private owner, you may also want to call the vehicle manufacturer and let them know you're the current owner. That way you’ll be quickly notified if any safety recalls are issued. The manufacturer’s customer service phone number can be found in your owner’s manual or online. The manufacturer will record your name and address, along with your car’s VIN, in their database for further communication.
You’ll also want to update any parking permit information tied to your car (like for campus parking or a work garage) and vehicle specific roadside assistance memberships.
2. Invest in a Thorough Tune-Up
This step may not be essential if you bought a certified pre-owned car (CPO) since these cars have to meet age and mileage requirements, as well as go through an inspection at the dealership.
For example, Edmunds.com reports that Toyota requires dealers to put used vehicles through a 160-point inspection process. If a car passes inspection, it’s awarded an extended warranty and deemed “certified pre-owned.”
Buying a used car from a private party is different. You may not have all the service records, you don’t know how truthful the seller is being about the condition/history of the car, and there may be a hidden problem lurking under the hood. Avoid unexpected car troubles by bringing the car to a mechanic you trust and investing in a basic mechanical inspection and tune-up. Ask the mechanic for a rundown of services you need to drive safely right now, and a list of services you should prepare for in the future.
At a minimum, top off essential fluids, change the oil, change all filters, and rotate the tires.
3. Check for Open Safety Recalls
A vehicle safety recall is issued when a vehicle, type of vehicle equipment, or part of a vehicle, does not meet Federal safety standards. According to CarFax, more than 47 million vehicles have at least one open safety recall. That’s about one in five vehicles out on the road today!
Check to see if your car has an open safety recall, especially if you bought it used. SaferCar.gov offers a convenient tool for looking up this information. All you need is the car’s VIN number and an internet connection.
Regardless of whether or not you’re the original owner, you still qualify to have your recalls repaired free of charge (even recalls that were announced before you bought the car). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the statute of limitations for no-charge recall repairs is 10 years from the original sale date of the vehicle.
4. Clean and Accessorize the Car
Now for the fun part! Wash, vacuum, and wipe down the interior of the car if it wasn’t detailed before you bought it. Pick out new floor mats, seat covers, and a sun shade to express your personality.
After you buy a used car, you may also want to personalize it by:
- Adding a phone mount
- Organizing the trunk with bins or baskets
- Upgrading your rims
- Designing a custom license plate cover
- Keeping it smelling fresh with your favorite scents
Now that everything is in order, it’s time to make the most of your used car! Take a road trip, hit the highway, and enjoy the ride. You deserve it. And if you’re still trying to sell your old car to make room for a new one? Check out our four simple steps to increase the resale value and appeal of your car.