May 13, 2020

If you’re looking for a car to take through the Smoky Mountains to go hunting for Emeralds or you’re planning a trip to Kittyhawk to see where the Wright brothers took flight for the very first time, it’s important to have a reliable way to get there. It can be difficult to feel confident when you’re purchasing a used car or truck but there are a few keys that will allow you to build that confidence. Things like securing a North Carolina VIN check, considering documentation like a free title search from N.C. and inspecting the car before purchase will completely change the equation. Those and other tips are all here in our definitive guide on buying a used car in North Carolina. 

1. Vehicle History Report

Having a truthful report that details everything a car has been through is paramount to getting a good deal. Imagine spending thousands of dollars only to find out after the fact that the car had a major accident or was stolen at one point in its history. In North Carolina, you can perform a free VIN check through the N.C. DMV. The problem with the free VIN lookup provided through N.C. is that it won’t cover history about how well the vehicle was cared for and may miss bigger things too. Let’s take a look at just four real examples from VIN History reports.

  1. Some vehicles are re-sold after being branded as “Lemons”. In North Carolina, that means the manufacturer wasn’t able to correct a problem within the first 24,000 miles or 24 months. There may be little to ensure that they’ve finally fixed whatever the issue was since then. 
  2. Buying a vehicle with a rolled back odometer is more common than you may think. A Toyota Highlander was purchased with 77k miles on the clock and less than 2 months later was recorded as having only 48k miles. 
  3. Sometimes vehicles may demonstrate a clean looking report but upon further digging, you’ll notice things that are causes for concern. A report on a Cadillac CTS seems to have a 5-year span where it wasn’t driven at all. That’s not good for a car and it should be a factor that’s questioned before purchase. 
  4. Major accidents can cause long term problems even after insurance has reportedly repaired a vehicle. Take this example of a BMW. It was damaged, then changed hands multiple times in a short span and now has a mysteriously altered mileage barely half of what it had originally. It sure seems that someone is trying to increase this car’s value. 

In N.C. you can’t obtain a vehicle title when you search by name alone due to privacy laws. So it’s vital that you obtain the VIN number of the vehicle so you can get a high-quality VIN history report. Buyers are required to disclose damage of 25% or more here in North Carolina but if you’re buying a car from out of state no such law exists. Additionally, we all know that some sellers aren’t entirely forthcoming about their cars’ flaws. As we’ve seen, it’s easy to miss things if all you’re looking at is the title itself or a simple non-detailed report. Having such reliable data about the car will give you the upper hand in negotiations. 

2. Know the car

Knowing the different options available for a car and which ones your prospective car has will also be key in negotiating the price. For instance, All-Wheel-Drive tends to make a vehicle more expensive, so if you are shopping for a car that can be optioned with it, and you don’t personally care, you can save yourself thousands. Other expensive options can be things like a sunroof, larger more powerful engines or tech packages that add features not everyone wants. Understanding what you’re looking for and what you don’t care about can change the base price of what you’re searching for by $10,000 or more. 

3. Know the market

This key will stop a used car salesman in their tracks. They simply don’t expect most buyers to have any idea what the car is really worth. Many high-quality VIN check reports will offer a general evaluation of what a car is likely worth when compared to similar cars in the market at that time. Keep in mind that values change rapidly in the used car space and it’s important to keep up to date on what you’re searching for. Look for vehicles that are similar around the area and get a knowledge of what most are asking for them. Keep in mind too that just because someone is asking a certain price doesn’t mean they’ll ever get it. 

4. Pre-purchase Inspection

If at all possible it’s imperative to have an independent shop take a look at the vehicle before purchase. While a N.C. VIN history report will document major issues and past maintenance, they won’t show you what may be about to fail. The vehicle may need major work soon and you’ll want to understand the likely cost of maintenance after the purchase before you sign on the dotted line. These may end up being issues that the seller isn’t even aware of themselves. The benefit of having an independent shop is that their report can be useful to both parties here. The seller benefits if the report is good and you do too. What if you’re buying from a dealer that wants to do the inspection themselves? Ask if an independent mechanic of your choosing can take a look alongside the dealer technician. Most honest dealers don’t mind this because they understand the benefit of reassuring their customers that they sell quality cars. You can even add those likely costs to the purchase price and use that as a negotiating tactic. 

5. Planning 

These steps will allow you to be totally confident of what you’re doing with your money. Utilize that confidence to negotiate the best deal possible because you know what the car is really worth to you. Make sure that before you begin, you set a limit to how much you’re truly willing to spend and stick with it. Keep in mind too that as the person with all the money and multiple options in the used car market, you have the power here. Don’t let a dealer or private seller pressure you into buying something you’re not sincerely happy with. Once you’ve used these steps to purchase your ride you can feel totally comfortable on that sightseeing trip we talked about at the start. 


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