What to Do After Buying a Used Car

Used-car buyers should get a tune-up and an inspection before driving.
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Buying a used car can help drivers save a considerable amount of money over buying new, but pre-owned vehicles often come with a sketchy or completely unknown history. In addition to the normal steps drivers must take when acquiring any vehicle, those who buy used cars should take additional precautions to ensure the vehicle continues to perform as expected.

License the Vehicle

Before putting any recently purchased vehicle on the road, drivers must register the car with the local Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV. In most locations, this process involves a personal visit to a local DMV office, signing the title to the car and presenting a bill of sale. Depending on state requirements, the DMV may require payment of applicable sales tax at this time; other states may allow drivers to receive a bill for the sales tax, and drivers who financed their used cars may have worked this tax in to the financing arrangement. In addition, some states require special inspections before operating the vehicle. In exchange, the DMV will issue a license plate, registration paperwork and, if applicable, an inspection sticker that validates the vehicle for use on public roads.

Get Insurance

In the states of Tennessee, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, as of 2012, drivers can put used cars into service immediately after receiving a license plate. In most states, though, drivers must obtain some level of automobile insurance before driving the vehicle on public roads. Though some car buyers may be able to drive legally without insurance, an insurance policy helps cover expenses for both the driver and the vehicle in case of unexpected damages.

Get a Tune-Up

Though some sellers keep used vehicles in top condition prior to sale, others may drive the car for many miles with little or no maintenance. To increase the odds that the car will provide reliable service, drivers should take newly purchased used cars for a thorough tune-up. Typical used-car service packages include complete fluid flushes, an oil change, a new oil filter and a new air filter. If the used car has more than 100,000 miles, owners should also replace the car’s belts. For additional assurance, consider also springing for new spark plugs, new spark plug wires and an alignment; this service on commonly worn items will help keep the car at peak performance.

Get an Inspection

Though tune-ups help repair or replace worn items that can affect a used car’s performance, a thorough inspection of the car’s other components can help identify or prevent costly problems. A qualified mechanic can inspect major systems like the transmission, suspension, exhaust, steering and the engine. This additional inspection can help identify issues that could leave drivers stranded; in some municipalities, if you discover major undisclosed problems in your used car, you may be able to return the vehicle for a refund.

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