10 Things to Check When Buying A Used Vehicle

Your Handy Guide for Getting a Reliable Ride

Whether it’s time to upgrade your current car or find a set of wheels for a new driver, looking for a new car can be overwhelming. Save the stress for another day, because we have the top 10 things you need to check when buying a used vehicle, so you can feel confident driving off the lot.

1. Find the Facts in a Vehicle History Report

When you find a used car that might be right for you, get as much information as you can from the current owner or used car dealership. If possible, try doing your own research by running the VIN (vehicle identification number) through a trusted service. It can tell you if a car has been in an accident, there are any liens on it, and if the model has been recalled. If the person you’re attempting to buy a used car from doesn’t offer the vehicle history easily, then look for a different seller.

2. Frame and Suspension Are an Easy Check

Take a walk around the used car you’re thinking about buying and look for problems with the frame. For instance, is your car sitting level on the ground, is there anything hanging underneath the car, or is there evidence on the body that could show an accident. Unlike rust spots and paint chips, fixing the frame on a used car can be expensive. So, if there are true signs the body and frame of a used car have been damaged, move on to a different vehicle. 

3. Rust and Paint Damage Are a Big Deal

Even though a small rust spot or a little paint damage doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can actually cause enormous problems in the future. That’s because once paint on your vehicle deteriorates, it doesn’t stop. Over time, a small spot can become a huge eye-sore. However, they aren’t a deal breaker, either. Ask if your seller or used car dealership can fix spots and chips before you purchase the vehicle.

4. Check What’s Going On Underneath the Hood

While we all want a ride that looks super cool, the most important part of a used vehicle is the engine. With the car turned off, open the hood and visually inspect the engine for fluid leaks, cracked hoses and belts, and any discoloration in oil or transmission fluid. Also, take the time to notice any off putting smells, because this could signal a bigger issue in the car’s engine.

5. Look at the Tires for Clues About How a Car Drives

The tires of a car can tell you a lot about the true condition of a vehicle. For instance, tires with uneven tread may indicate there is something wrong with your suspension, alignment, frame, or steering. So, if you notice something is off with the tires, make sure you check the alignment of the car as you’re driving. A poorly aligned car will pull to the right or left.

6. High Mileage Cars Mean More Maintenance 

The average car only drives about 10,000 to 15,000 miles a year. In order to figure out if a car has high or low mileage, divide the number on the odometer by the vehicle’s age. This is a good time to make sure the mileage on the vehicle history report matches what you see on the odometer. Older cars with higher mileage have a lot of wear and tear, and might cost more to maintain over time than a newer car with low mileage. 

7. Test All of the Interior Electronics 

Can you imagine a hot summer day without a working air conditioner or not being able to play your favorite music while you’re driving? That’s why you need to take time to turn every knob and test every switch when you’re test-driving a used car. If there is something that isn’t working properly, make sure you bring it to the seller’s attention when you negotiate the price of the vehicle.

8. Damaged Upholstery Might Be a Deal Breaker 

It may not seem like it, but replacing upholstery in a car is very expensive. Small tears turn into big rips, and stains get darker as time goes by. Check the upholstery in the front seats, back seats, flooring, and door panels. If the interior of your car has suffered a lot of damage, then it might be time to look for a different used car. However, if everything else in the vehicle looks like it’s in great condition, then you might use damaged upholstery to negotiate a lower cost for a used car.

9. Is It Something You Can Afford?

Buying a used car costs more than the price displayed in the window. You need to consider costs like insurance, registration, gas mileage, and routine maintenance. If you can’t afford regular upkeep on your car, think about finding a used vehicle with a lower price. That way, you’ll have enough money left over for aftermarket upgrades.

10. Get a Second Inspection and Thank Yourself Later

If you think you’ve found the used car that meets all your needs, you need to take it to a trusted mechanic for a second inspection. They are the only people who can expertly determine if the vehicle you want has underlying issues or areas that might become a big problem in the future. Even though getting a second inspection isn’t a free service, it could save you from buying a lemon.