Buying a Car: How to Know If Your Ride Is Reliable


When you’re purchasing a vehicle, ensuring its reliability is important for staying safe out on the road. An unreliable vehicle can come with costly maintenance or repair issues, some of which can lead to accidents with other drivers. To avoid injury from a car accident and to protect your investment in a car, it’s important to determine an internal reliability rating for each vehicle you look at. 

Is It Better to Buy New or Used?

First and foremost, there is a misconception that buying a used car means that you have a far higher likelihood of getting into a car accident. This is not true. A well maintained used vehicle can be just as safe as a vehicle coming straight off the lot.

Modern, pre-owned vehicles are far more reliable than used vehicles of the past – while some exceptions include the proven-and-tested, reliable classic car models, like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette. With that said, purchasing a new vehicle still tends to be the reliable option for two main reasons: improved technology and existing factory warranty. 

New vehicles can often be fixed for free or for a low cost so long as the issue occurs while they are still under warranty. Additionally, safety technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent history which makes newer vehicles more reliable out on the road.

With this in mind, the average new vehicle costs $44,584, with the average shopper paying $410 above the sticker price. Not everybody can afford an expense this high. If you can only afford to purchase a used vehicle, that doesn’t mean you won’t be safe on the road. As long as your used vehicle was made in the last decade and has been cared for, you can be just as safe. 

How to Test The Reliability of a Vehicle

When shopping around for a vehicle, whether used or new, it’s important to test the reliability before you make a purchase decision. Use the following five tips to see if the vehicle you’re looking at will make for a safe ride:

1. Take it for a test drive

Most dealerships will allow you to take a car for a test drive before purchasing. This is an excellent opportunity to see how the vehicle handles and to see if there are any glaring issues that would make it not right for you. If you are purchasing a used vehicle from another person, request a test drive. That person not allowing you to take it for a test drive could potentially be a red flag. 

2. Complete a visual inspection

Regardless of the type of car you purchase, do a walk-around of the car to see if there are any issues. While this tip is less applicable to a vehicle that just came off the manufacturing line, it can help you spot issues with used vehicles. Inspect for damage on the exterior and interior of the vehicle, look under the car for leakage, and open the hood to visually inspect the parts. 

3. Consider the car’s history if it’s used

Dealerships should maintain a record of a vehicle’s history and any potential service it may have had in the past. Gaining access to this history can tell a potential buyer what problems the vehicle had. If you are buying the car from someone else, ask them to provide a history of maintenance to ensure the car has been cared for. 

4. Have it vetted by a professional expert

For pre owned vehicles purchased outside of a dealership, taking it into a shop for a professional inspection is never a bad choice. Even if you completely trust the person who sold you the car, there could have been problems that they weren’t even aware of. 

5. Read only reviews for the vehicle

A number of companies conduct yearly reliability rating reviews for vehicles across different brands. Most notably, the Ford F-150 Lightning is top rated by Edmunds due to its safety, reliability, and capability. A Ford may not be the car you’re interested in, but a reliability rating with reviews might be available for whatever car you are considering. 

Keep yourself protected on the road

Unexpected vehicle maintenance or breakdowns will cost you both time and money. Avoid jeopardizing your safety by failing to ensure the reliability of a vehicle you want to purchase. A vehicle may have a sleek look that catches your eye, but if it has a slew of reported problems then it’s probably not the best choice to add to your garage. Always research a vehicle before making a purchase decision to bolster your safety on the road. 

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