Buying a new car can be a nerve wracking experience, particularly if you are in the market for a pre-owned vehicle. While purchasing a car used, either from a private owner or a car dealership, can save you a significant amount of money, it is a gamble in terms of how well the car will run and any repairs that may be needed. Having a solid, dependable vehicle is an important part of increasing both your and your passengers’ safety and avoiding potential car accidents and injuries. Before making your purchase, check out the following information on the potential dangers of buying a used car, refer to our used car safety checklist to help guide you in your purchase, and familiarize yourself on what to do if you are in a car accident while in a used car.
The Potential Dangers of Buying a Used Car
Car accidents can occur at any time, to even the safest of drivers. Indeed, millions of car crashes take place across the United States each year, many of them causing serious, potentially debilitating, and even life threatening injuries for drivers as well as their passengers. While many car accidents can be attributed to road and traffic conditions as well, as to the reckless behavior of other drivers, many motor vehicle accidents occur each year due to defects within the vehicle itself. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), common types of vehicle defects that increase the risks of a driver being involved in an accident include the following:
- Defects in tires and the wheel system, such as worn tread and broken tie rods;
- Defects in the braking system, such as worn rotors and brake lines;
- Defects in the steering column or in the vehicle’s hydraulics and suspension system;
- Defects in the engine or transmission system, which could result in problems with acceleration and shifting gears, or cause the vehicle to stall in traffic.
Many of the above issues are often the result of poor vehicle maintenance by previous owners, or can be due to an owner trading in a car when repairs become too costly. Even a new or newer model car can have defects that can impact driver safety, particularly if the vehicle in question has been subject to recalls. The NHTSA car recall list shows over 800 different types of recalls affecting roughly 63 million cars, defects that range from performance issues, such as sudden acceleration or loose wiring, to those affecting safety issues, such as the recent airbag scandal. The Takata airbag recall has impacted more than nine million vehicles sold in the U.S., potentially affecting cars made from a variety of manufacturers from 2001 until the present. Prior to buying any type of vehicle, use the NHTSA’s recall search tool, which allows you to search by vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if the car you are considering buying has been affected.
Used Car Safety Checklist
In addition to checking to see if a used car has been subject to recall, there are simple steps buyers can take prior to making a purchase to ensure the vehicle’s overall condition and safety is up to par. Consumer Reports Car Buying Guide advises that before going on a test drive, potential buyers should visually inspect a car in the following areas:
- Look at overall body condition, and be on the lookout for scratches, dents, and other signs the car has been in an accident.
- Check all windows and mirrors for signs of cracking or chipping.
- Push down on the vehicle to check the suspension, and see if it bounces back. If it bounces more than once, you could be looking at expensive suspension repairs.
- Make sure the vehicle looks even, and check the tires for signs of uneven wear or bulging.
- Pay attention to odors such as mold or mildew, which could be signs of water damage.
- Sit in each seat to make sure they are comfortable and can be adjusted correctly.
- Turn the ignition without actually starting the vehicle to make sure the warning lights are working properly. Pay attention to any lights that remain on.
- Take a friend with you to ensure the turn signals, brake lights, and headlights function properly.
- Turn on the air conditioner and heater, and make sure both run as they should.
- Check extras, such as sunroofs, CD players, and stereo system, to ensure they function properly.
Under the Hood
- Prior to starting the car, make sure all belts and hoses are attached and in good condition.
- Check the oil level and color. Healthy engine oil will be brownish in color, with no grit, foam, or water residue.
- Check the radiator coolant, which should be greenish in color, with no spills, staining or build up on the reservoir.
- Check the battery age and look for signs of loose connections or corrosion.
- Start the vehicle and make sure it turns over properly.
- With the engine running, listen for any knocks or pings that could indicate engine problems.
- Check the car’s transmission fluid. It should be pink in color, and filled to adequate levels.
Under the Vehicle
- Use a flashlight to look under the vehicle, and check for signs of sagging floorboards.
- Look at the muffler system, and make sure it is properly connected and in good condition.
- Check for any fluid leaks, or signs of wetness under the vehicle.
- Look at the tailpipe, and watch for black or greasy residue, which could be a sign that the car is burning oil.
What to Do if Injured In a Car Accident While in a Used Car
Regardless of how well you inspect a potential new vehicle, there are situations in which issues can still arise. Most used cars are either sold ‘as is’ or under limited warranty, so there may be little you can do to hold your car dealer accountable for any mechanical repairs that need to be made. At the same time, if the car you bought had glaring safety defects which resulted in an accident or injuries, you may be entitled to compensation.The following can help guide you in terms of what to do if you are injured in a car accident while in a used vehicle:
- Notify law enforcement, and remain on the scene until help arrives;
- Exchange contact and vehicle information with other driver, including your insurance company number and policy number;
- Make a mental note of any conditions leading up the accident, and any problems you may have experienced with the vehicle, such as brakes not responding, tire blow outs, or engine failure;
- Get contact information for any witnesses at the scene;
- Get medical attention immediately for any injuries you suffer, even if they appear minor. Many potentially serious conditions can have symptoms that take days or even weeks to appear;
- Notify your insurance company as soon as possible.
Before making any statements to the insurance company or signing any documents relating to a settlement, contact our car accident lawyer right away to discuss your situation, and the reasons you suspect the vehicle you were driving may have been responsible.
Reach Out to Us for Assistance
If you or someone you care about is injured in a car crash or collision, contact our experienced Florida accident lawyers today. At the Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC, we can advise you on how to hold responsible parties accountable for the damages they have caused, and assist you in getting the compensation you need to recover. We serve Brooksville and the surrounding Florida area. Call or contact our office online today for a free and confidential consultation.