Articles, Used Car Buying

Buying a Used Car? Here’s 15 Things to Do Right After the Purchase

Written By: Cedric Jackson
Reviewed by: Mike Reyes
Last Updated November 1, 2023

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this person bought a used car worried about it becoming a money pit

When consumers buy a used car, there are several things to think about. While the primary process has been handled entirely with test drives and dealerships or private sellers, it is up to you to continue further down the checklist to get the most out of a used car.

What to Do After Buying A Used Car

People might think that there is nothing left to do after buying a car. But, do not forget to take the steps needed to keep a used car on track.

1. Get the Car Insured

When you buy a car, the first thing to always do is to get insurance before leaving the car lot. Getting into an accident just after leaving is a terrifying possibility after spending hard-earned money on a car, even if it is a used car. Either way, it is an investment, and buyers need to protect themselves.

It’s a good idea to call around before purchasing the car model you have in mind to get a quote. If that did not happen before, buying the best car insurance must be the top priority to get taken care of once a vehicle is purchased. Some dealerships require buyers to have insurance before leaving, so being ready with insurance is imperative for a good experience.

2. Check for Existing Recalls

Recalls happen in brand-new and used vehicles as technology changes over time. Sometimes, manufacturers will send out information for a recall because of a necessary update, too. Certain recalls can also affect driver or passenger safety, so recalls cannot be ignored.

After the purchase is complete, buyers can find information about recalls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Get the vehicle identification number or VIN from the car to complete a search. It is also a good idea to check for recalls multiple times a year because new recalls are released periodically. 

3. Transfer the Title

If a car is purchased from a dealership, the dealership typically handles the title transfer. The title is the official document that proves ownership. So, if you buy privately, it is critical to get this taken care of as soon as possible after purchase.

When purchasing from a private seller, buyers need to verify liens do not exist from the previous owner. If there are, those need to be handled immediately. Buyers need proof that the seller has documents that prove any loans have been paid as required. If a buyer has any questions about transferring a title, the DMV needs to be contacted for state-specific answers.

4. Get the Car Registered

Once a car has been purchased, it must be registered with the DMV soon after. Car dealers will typically handle getting the vehicle registered in the buyer’s name. But, it is different when working with a private seller. Private sellers should provide documentation to the buyer to show to the DMV to get the registration done.

Some of the documents needed include the bill of sale showing the purchase price, the title that has been signed over by the previous owner, the VIN, proof of insurance, odometer reading, sales tax if applicable, and evidence of passed inspections. Buyers also need to contact the local DMV to find out if any further documents are required.

5. Find a Trusted Mechanic

Finding a mechanic can be challenging, which is one reason that buyers may prefer to purchase from a well-respected dealership. Dealerships have mechanics on staff that are responsible for conducting an inspection and doing any preventative maintenance before the purchase.

Private sellers are different, and buyers need to be aware of buying a used car with issues. Ideally, the vehicle should be checked before the purchase. However, it needs to have a thorough inspection done when that is not possible. When in need of a trusted mechanic, buyers should research reviews and request recommendations from local groups to get an idea of who to trust.

6. Schedule Any Necessary Repairs

Once the mechanic has had a chance to complete an inspection, it may be recommended to replace spark plugs, belts, or any frayed wires, along with any other issues. There may also be cosmetic issues that may need to be dealt with if the buyer deems these repairs are essential.

Some repairs may be more critical than others. So, depending on what the mechanic says, there may be a list that needs to be followed. It is possible that the new owner might need to prioritize repairs to get things done over time. If that turns out to be the case, working out a schedule with a trusted mechanic will be a great way to get things done.

7. Read the Owner’s Manual 

It is a good idea to read the owner’s manual to get to know your newly purchased vehicle inside and out. It may not be full of entertaining reading, but knowing what the lights on the dashboard mean can be helpful should they come on. Buyers can also read about any potential existing warranties that might still apply to the used car.

Getting to know more about the car is helpful because new owners can learn about what to expect regarding the engine and other internal components of the vehicle. It also gives the owner a chance to become familiar with some of the more specific details about different parts of the used car.

8. Create a Maintenance Schedule

Using the manual, buyers can also get to know what the regular maintenance schedule is for the car. Each manual contains a suggested maintenance schedule, so a buyer knows what to expect and plan for in the future. Sticking with the recommended schedule can help in saving money over time, too.

Maintenance is a crucial part of being a responsible car owner. That includes keeping an eye on the wear and tear of tires, keeping up with oil changes, and getting regular tune-ups. Finding a trusted mechanic is essential in keeping car maintenance from becoming overwhelming.

9. Consider an Extended Warranty

When purchasing a used car, buyers may also want to consider a used car warranty. There are many different options available for warranties that range from expensive repairs to bumper-to-bumper coverage. Buyers should still do research to figure out the best options available.

Keep in mind that some warranties appear to be scams, so researching is vital in making the best selection. Buyers should also check for any specific fine print regarding repairs and coverage. Some warranties are only effective at particular mechanics, so those might be ones to steer clear from.

10. Get Familiar With Features

Once the car is ready to go, buyers need to familiarize themselves with the car’s features. Learning what all of the buttons do is vital because the last thing anyone wants to deal with is trying to figure out how to open the gas tank at an inopportune time. Knowing how to program the dashboard is helpful, too, to enjoy driving to the perfect soundtrack.

Features go beyond the buttons, though, and include levers for seats and the position of latches if installing a car seat is an essential aspect of the used car. Finding out where all of the power outlets are is also important so owners can charge their gadgets as needed.

11. Subscribe to XM Radio Station

Most cars, even used cars, have an XM radio subscription to buy. Subscribing to these stations often comes at a deal for new subscribers, so getting one does not have to be expensive. It is a perk that buyers can also enjoy when not in their cars, as there are options for mobile and in-home use.

Owners can enjoy live radio via satellite radio channels, including traffic, sports, comedy, talk, news, weather, and even a video option. Multiple plans exist to meet various needs, from basic music to full-service plans. Boat owners can also take advantage of options for their boats.

12. Purchase Needed Accessories

Savvy drivers know that certain accessories are necessary for a pleasurable driving experience. Bluetooth devices are helpful to keep drivers hands-free, and while most cars have built-in Bluetooth, if the vehicle does not have it available, there are accessories to make it possible. Having a holder for a phone is also helpful so drivers do not feel the need to look down at their phones while driving.

Cleaning accessories, like spot removers that do not need to be rinsed, should also be included in a good car accessory kit. For owners who live in snowbound locations, having a set of escape tracks is essential. Trunk and hook organizers can also be helpful to keep everything in its place.

13. Purchase a Car Wash Membership

Buyers should be proud of their used car, and what better way to show off the vehicle than by keeping it clean? Car wash memberships exist, and with them, drivers can enjoy anything from full-service plans to wash-only plans. If weather or seasonal changes are frequent, like pollen fluctuations, having this opportunity is a fantastic investment for any car owner.

Memberships are also known as car wash clubs. And, being a part of one is also a great way to save money. Flat rate memberships are best because they pay for themselves within a couple of visits, meaning owners can go as often as they want without paying for every single wash.

14. Give the Car Some Character

Having a new car should be a fun experience, so why not add some character? Fun additions could be anything from a statement-making magnet on the outside to an attractive steering wheel cover. With all of the choices in accessories, owners can choose sophisticated or whimsical accents. These options are personal and reflect their owner’s personality to make you feel like a car is a part of the family.

Getting plush seating cushions to make for comfortable drives and a fun tiny trash can adds character. Getting a wet-dry vacuum is another great way to keep your car looking clean while letting character shine through.

15. Go for a Drive

Once the car is completely decked out and ready to go, it is time for you to go for a drive to stretch the car’s legs. Pet owners can also bring their furry friends along. Travel in style with a car seat cover to protect the car and keep pets comfortable. Have fun, play some jams, and explore the world with newfound freedom.

A Few Last Words on What to Do After Purchasing a Used Car

There is a lot to think about after buying a used car. Getting car insurance and title transfers are essential to get started. Finding out about recalls is critical to keeping the car safe for drivers and passengers. Once registration is complete, it is time to get the car inspected by a trusted mechanic.

After that, it is all about creating a schedule for repairs or maintenance to get the most out of a newly purchased car. Getting familiar with the features is also essential to feel comfortable with a new car, even if it is a used car, because it will be new to you.

Once all of the necessary tasks are done, it is time to get down to the fun stuff, like finding the accessories that reflect your personality. Adding some exciting goodies to a vehicle should be a part of what it means to have a new car. Taking care of it with regular car washes and giving the car some character is the icing on the cake. When everything is squared away, it is time to take a drive and enjoy your new car experience.

1 thought on “Buying a Used Car? Here’s 15 Things to Do Right After the Purchase”

  1. This blog is very useful and stated the points where buyer’s would least consider. But I presume other than basic inspections it also helpful when you also give attention to the vehicle’s background.


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