The road trip is a rite of passage every driver eventually must take on. It might be a long and winding business trip, a meander across the country on a family adventure or anything in between. Whatever the reason, you will want a reliable car for your next road trip to ensure everything runs smoothly and everyone has a great time, even if you are the only one on the road.
For some, this means finally taking the leap and purchasing a new or pre-owned vehicle. Knowing what to look for – and look out for – can make the difference between stalling on the streets of Manhattan and pulling into the park at the Grand Canyon.
If you plan to buy a new car, take some time to research the best vehicles in the class of car you’re shopping for. “Consumer Reports” publishes its list of most reliable cars every year. Since the consumer protection organization is not supported by advertising, you can rest assured that its reporting is unbiased. Do some online research as well. See what owners say about their auto and what challenges they encounter mechanically. Together, that should be enough to help you whittle down your wish list.
What’s the Title?
Your first inclination when shopping for a pre-owned car is to ask to see the vehicle’s Carfax. This document, an amalgamation of reporting from insurance companies and police departments, may not give you the full picture, however. Better to order a car title history report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. Here you will get a full report on the car from the federal government, giving you a deeper insight into why your new-to-you auto is the best choice.
Check Out the Car’s History
Once you have a sense of who has owned the car and where the car has lived (warm weather, cold weather or a mix) via the title report, ask for a maintenance or service history. This report will tell you whether the vehicle was ever in an accident, if it had several repairs, or if it is as good as new. Knowing how healthy the car is will help you make a better purchase decision.
Be Wary of Rentals
Purchasing a former rental car sounds like a deal out of the gate, usually because the vehicle has low mileage. Typically, though, rental drivers are more likely to drive the car with less care, adding a fair amount of wear and tear. Before you sign on the line, check to see if the car was a rental in a previous life.
Check the Safety Rating
Reliability and safety go hand in hand. Whether you are buying a new or pre-owned vehicle, take a moment to check out the car’s safety rating. The better the safety rating, the more likely it will have a full complement of airbags and solid mechanics, like brakes and steering.
Take a Walk Around the Car
Moreso for pre-owned vehicles, but useful for new cars as well, take a moment to visually inspect the car. Look for any deformities – dents, scratches – and any evidence of water damage, like rust. Mismatched paint could signal a collision in the car’s past. Check the tire treads, too, to make sure they have even wear. If not, you may have discovered misaligned wheels.
Remember, too, that knowledge is power and will help you find the best vehicle. Follow these simple tips and you will be well on your way to finding a reliable car for your next road trip. If you have any questions along the way, reach out to an expert, like your insurance agent, to ask a few questions.