Finding the Right Vehicle

Once you've determined how much you can afford and have been pre-approved, you will want to start looking at vehicles. There are many places to search for a new automobile.

  • Look online. Many car dealers list cars for sale on their website. You can see what’s available and check pricing without leaving your home. 
  • Visit a new car dealer to find off-lease or low mileage used cars.
  • Look in your local newspaper.
  • Find a "For Sale by Owner" vehicle.
  • Visit a used car dealer to find a vehicle in your price range.
Vehicle Value

You want to make sure the pre-owned vehicle you're thinking about purchasing is the best possible value. What's the service history? Is the mileage reasonable? Has it been serviced regularly? Is the asking price fair? These are some of the questions you are going to want to answer before you make your decision.

Know the Book Value - A quality pre-owned car or truck may cost less than new, but it's still a big commitment. You work hard for your money and want to make sure you're getting the most value for your dollar. You may be wondering about the current market value of the vehicle you're thinking about purchasing. Value varies based on the condition of the vehicle.

We make it easy for you to check the estimated value on any car or truck from the comfort of your own home. For even more detailed information contact your experienced 1st Source Banker or call Loan Source at (888) 255-6644. They'll be happy to help you compare retail and wholesale prices, determine the real value of various accessories, and answer any other questions.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid buying a previously owned vehicle older than five years with more than 50,000 miles. Remember that low mileage does not guarantee quality. A car with only 10,000 miles is no bargain if it's been abused. The average driver puts around 15,000 miles on their vehicle every year; a truck or car with a 10,000-mile average can be an excellent find and a good target to shoot for when shopping. Be flexible though, a car that has been well cared for may still be a good choice even if the mileage is a little above average.

Learn the Real Condition - One of the biggest risks involved with purchasing a previously owned vehicle is its condition. Sellers, especially car lots, will spend a good deal of time sprucing up their vehicles before they go on display. Your job is to look beyond the freshly waxed surface and determine how well this car or truck has been cared for.

Knowledge is your best friend when you go shopping; know what you're looking for before you go. Have a check list of items you want to inspect and take it with you. Make sure you take your time during the test drive so the car warms up thoroughly. Stay out for 15 minutes at the very minimum and try to get the dealer to let you keep it overnight if possible.

NEVER take the seller's word regarding the condition of the vehicle you're thinking about buying. ALWAYS take it to a reputable mechanic, preferably one you know, and have them look it over. Most repair shops do this frequently and know what to look for. It will probably cost you a few dollars, but the price is well worth it.

Maintenance History Tips - The care a car or truck receives from the previous owner makes a huge difference in value. It can also be one of the most difficult things to accurately determine when you're shopping for a used car.

Take an overall look at the vehicle's appearance. Is it clean? Is the body covered with dings and scratches? Is the interior in good shape? Do you get the overall impression that the car was well cared for? Also ask to see the maintenance records.  You can also check the VIN (vehicle identification number) to see if the automobile has a salvage title. A salvage title would indicate that the car or truck has been written off as a total loss by an insurance company, and then rebuilt for sale.

These are just some of the things to keep in mind as you try to determine the maintenance history of a pre-owned vehicle. Do your best to find out as much as you can and, when working with a dealer, make sure they stand behind their vehicle with a solid warranty.

The Test Drive
A large part of the test drive is simply to see if you like the car. Are the seats comfortable? Do you like the way it drives and rides? Is there good visibility? Of course there are several mechanical points to investigate as well.

  • Before you take the test drive take a close look at the exterior of the car. Check under the hood and take a mental picture of what you see.
  • Does the car accelerate smoothly and have the kind of power you're looking for?
  • Listen closely for odd engine or transmission noises. Don't play the radio now, you can check that later. You want to make sure you can hear noises that don't belong.
  • When you take your hands off the wheel (safely and for a very short period of time) does the car drift to the left or right?  Pulling in one direction or the other can indicate an alignment problem.
  • After going over bumps or railroad tracks does the vehicle bounce excessively indicating worn out shocks? Does it sway and lean going through a curve?
  • Are the brakes firm or spongy? Do they make a lot of noise when applied?
  • Test the cruise control and other accessories like the heater, air conditioner, and electric windows. Yes, you can turn on the radio now.
  • Remember the mental picture you took of the engine compartment before the drive began? Take another look. Some leaks are not apparent when the engine is cold. Do you see anything that wasn't there before? While the motor is still running listen again for odd engine noises.
Recall History
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, is charged with the responsibility of investigating possible design defects in the cars and trucks we drive. If they receive enough complaints about a particular problem with a particular vehicle, they investigate. Their research may lead to a manufacturer's recall. It's easy and quick to check the car you're thinking about purchasing by accessing the NHTSA's web site. All you have to do is enter the vehicle's make, model, and year; any recall information will be provided almost instantly.

Before you leave the NHTSA site, you might want to check out some of the other information they offer. You can read safety ratings and safety studies, recall notices, and many articles on almost every aspect of auto safety.

Vehicle History Reports

There are more ways to investigate a used car's history than ever before. It's fast and easy to check the background on a car or truck you may be considering, as long as you know the make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN). You can also find out if the vehicle is a lemon or if it has ever suffered flood damage. Uncovering the fact that a car has a salvage title should reduce its value up to 50%. A little time spent on research can pay big benefits. Find out what a salvage title is and just how many vehicle records exist on the particular car or truck you're thinking of purchasing.