What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

TomUsed Car Tips

tips for buying used car

It’s not so easy to buy a good used car. It’s always a bit of a gamble. But there are things that you can do to lessen the risks and stack odds in your favor. Ok, so what to look for when buying a used car? Here is a used car checklist that will get you covered.

How to Inspect a Used Car

  • Check the exterior of the car. Look for scratches, dents, and rust. Rust can be a big and expensive problem. Small spots don’t affect the performance of the car. But rust will spread. If it gets to a car frame, it’s almost too expensive to exterminate.
  • Look at the paint. Do all parts of the car have the same paint? If not, it means the part was damaged and repainted. Check the trunk, what kind of paint is there?
  •  Inspect the windows. All car windows should have a stamp and date of a manufacturer. If some dates do not match, it could be a problem. Especially if side windows have newer dates. Most probably the car had an accident and was hit on that side.
  • Check the engine. Look for any leaks and apparent damage on any parts. If the engine looks very clean, it’s a red flag right there. Most probably the seller washed the engine to hide leaks.
  • Look at the tires. Are they worn out evenly? If not, it indicates a few potential problems. It could be that wheels are not balanced right. Maybe a problem with suspension or steering parts. Or it could be a damaged geometry of the car frame. 
  • Get inside. Do you feel comfortable there? Do you like it? How does it feel when you sit in a passenger seat? Backseat? Do you see any damage anywhere? Do all tech features work? Can you pair your phone with a car via Bluetooth? Does stereo work?

Check VIN Number / Review History Report

Buying a used car can become a pleasurable experience. When you know what you are bargaining for. Any used car is as good as its history. Check its VIN number on the car history report website. You will get a full, detailed history report of the car. It will answer many questions. 

  • Does odometer show real mileage?
  • How many owners did the car had? 
  • Was it used as a rental car or a taxi? 
  • How many accidents did it have? 

The Reputation of the Seller 

When buying a used car from a dealer shop, it’s always a good idea to check them online. Google them, look for customer reviews, check their social media, Facebook star rating. Of course, the internet won’t answer all the questions. But if they’ve got a ton of bad customer reviews, it should mean something. If their ratings are low, customer reviews are bad, and the website looks suspicious. Maybe better to look for a car at some other place.

It gets a bit more complicated when dealing with a private person. You’ll have to depend on your impressions of the person. Does the seller become a little bit squirmy then you ask questions about odometer, accidents, and previous owners of the car?

Ask what their policy is if after a few weeks it will be revealed that the car has a serious problem? Will they be willing to compensate for repairs?

Get a Buddy with You

One of the biggest mistakes is to make an emotional decision. When you like the car, your mind changes a little bit. You begin to exaggerate the advantages of the car and start ignoring disadvantages or smaller problems. When we like something, our naive brain tries to help us to get it. No matter what.

And of course, the seller will work on you. Especially if they’ll see that you love the car. They’ll begin to talk about how this model is one of the best. How it has almost non-mechanical weaknesses. How it’s the best choice for you. And so on. All this is just a salesman talk. Every car is unique. And very much depends on how that car was cared for. How often maintenance was done. How fast repairs are done. What was the driving style of the owner?

That’s why you need a friend. When buying a used car that you started to love, only a friend can cool you down. Only a friend will take you aside and talk reason to you. When inspecting a used car, bring a second, nonpartisan opinion. It will save you from emotional and not so smart decisions.

Test-Drive the Car 

A test-drive is one of the most important things to do before buying a car. Even if you buy a new one. Especially if you buy a used car. First, during the test-drive, you will feel the car and you’ll know if you like it. Second, test-drive will show if the car suits your driving style. Third, test-drive can reveal many mechanical problems in a used car. 10 minutes is more than enough to test and feel a car.  

It’s a good idea to start a test-drive with a cold engine. Cold engine reveals the performance as it is.  Warmed up engines (especially diesel) can hide all kinds of unusual noises and problems. Test the car at a different speed: 20, 40, 80 miles per hour. Feel it. Maybe there are excessive vibrations at high speed?

Check the brakes. If a car was standing idly for some time, brakes can be a bit rusty and feel a bit strange. But if after a few minutes of driving and braking it still feels strange or weak. It’s a problem.

It’s a good idea to haggle before test-driving. Then, the test-drive will give you time to cool down and prepare for the second round of haggling.

Get the Car to the Mechanic

When you have done your work, checked for obvious problems and had a test drive. You already have a feeling about a car. You like it and you think you would love to own it. Then it is time to take a deep breath and not rush. It’s time to get that car to a mechanic and check it thoroughly.

Professionals have an eye for potential problems. And the second opinion is always good. What to look for when buying a used car? Choose a good mechanic and you won’t even have to ask those questions. Your mechanic will check under the car for corrosion and geometry of the car frame and wheels. They will inspect the engine. It is impossible to see every problem without dismantling the engine. But every decent mechanic knows symptoms that indicate a potential or hidden problem. Also, at the mechanic shop, they will be able to check electronics. And electronics are a big source of problems in contemporary cars.

Diminish the Risk 

Buying a used car is a smart decision. But it’s also a gamble. Knowing the history of the vehicle is the only way to really know what you are buying. It is the best guarantee you can get.

Get that VIN and go to a website like carVertical. Get your guarantee. Get a car that you want and avoid an unnecessary headache in the future.