What To Look For When Buying a Used Car

Before spending thousands of dollars on a vehicle, you should know what to look for when buying a used car. Here’s everything you should look for when buying used to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.

More and more drivers are choosing to buy used as new vehicle prices continue to rise and used vehicles continue to deliver on quality. Buying used, leaves you with extra cash for the big things like trips and family time, while also giving you a reliable vehicle to get you where you need to go safely.

With proper inspection and testing, you can be sure that your next used car will meet your expectations for years to come.

Do Your Research & Verify with a Vehicle History Report

When buying a used car, arm yourself with as much information as possible. Dive deep into the vast online world for vehicle reviews, comparisons, pricing, specs and more. Browse Carsforsale.com to find the average asking price for other vehicles like yours. Look for reviews from other owners of the car you are considering, too. If you come into the sale knowing all about the vehicle details, you’ll be prepared to negotiate a fair price.


It’s important to double-check the history of any vehicle with a vehicle history report to ensure you don’t miss any red flags that can’t be seen upon inspection. A vehicle history report will provide vehicle, recall, junk, salvage, and auction sale information. You can also find odometer readings, title history, insurance records and more. This report can prevent a painful, costly purchasing mistake.

You can easily access a free vehicle history report on every vehicle listed on Carsforsale.com. These reports will provide you with all the information you need to decide if a car is worth pursuing.

Once you’ve done your research and you’ve found a vehicle you like, head to the dealership and see if the car fits the bill in person.

Inspect the Vehicle Firsthand

You’re at the dealership and ready to make a purchase, but the first thing you need to do is inspect the vehicle from bumper to bumper. Here are a few things to look out for when buying a used vehicle to avoid costly repairs soon after you buy.


Inspect the Exterior

When you first look at the car, you should be able to notice if something cosmetic is damaged right away. Paint scratches, dents, and cracks in the windshield are all common things that need fixing. Always pay attention to the undercarriage of a vehicle, too, to ensure you don’t miss any rust or deterioration that may need repair. It may seem silly but checking these items ahead of time will save you money down the line.

Check Out the Interior

After you inspect the exterior of the vehicle, hop in to see what you find inside the car. Be on the lookout for any weird stains or smells, but also look out for rips or tears in the upholstery. You should always check the interior lights and infotainment center to avoid having a costly repair item on your list as soon as you leave the lot. This might seem obvious to check these things, but many car buyers get so caught up in the excitement of a new vehicle that they seldom check light switches, automatic door locks, and the like.

Look Under the Hood

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for under the hood, it’s a good idea to bring someone along with you that does. Whether that be a mechanic or a friend who loves cars, having an ally on your side can keep you levelheaded and practical.


Looking under the hood gives you a chance to see what condition the vehicle is in and how long it may last. Checking the oil, engine, belts and hoses are your best bet at understanding how the vehicle was maintained and how well it drives.

Once you’ve done a thorough once over, it’s time to take the vehicle out for a test drive.

Test Drive Checklist

Test driving a vehicle is probably the most important step in determining the value and condition of a used vehicle. The way the car handles, drives, and sounds gives you a good indication of whether the car has been maintained.

You only need to ask yourself three questions during the test drive to determine if the car you’re taking for a spin is safe and in prime condition.

1. Does it drive well?

Test drive the vehicle at varying speeds up to at least 60 mph. Engage the cruise control. Be vigilant of unusual sounds or feelings like a shimmy, shake, or vibration. Does the car perform as quickly or smoothly as you’d like? Is there shaking in the steering wheel? When it’s safe to do so, let go of the steering wheel momentarily. Does the car pull to one side or the other? Make sure to listen and feel the car during several left and right turns.

2. Does it stop well?

Make sure to test the brakes safely. When you hit the brakes, does the vehicle pull to one side or the other? Does the brake pedal feel squishy? These are both causes for concern that may need to be repaired.

3. Does it idle well?

After the car sits for 30-60 seconds, check for any fluid that may have leaked from the vehicle (aside from water dripping after using the air conditioner, that’s normal). Listen for squeaking or squealing as you start the engine and as it idles, as these can all indicate that repairs are needed soon.

The Perfect Ride is Out There

Knowing what to look for when buying a used car will provide financial savings, peace of mind, and prevent you from having buyer’s remorse. Feel free to take the buying process slowly. A vehicle is a large investment, so a few hours of research and inspection are completely worth your time.


Whether you are looking for new or used cars for sale, check out Carsforsale.com. With millions of vehicles listed nationwide, you’ll find your perfect ride in no time.

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Erin Maxson

Erin loves nothing more than a good road trip. To her, getting behind the wheel is one of the biggest adventures you can take because it can lead to anywhere. Alongside her Toyota Tundra, you'll find her co-pilot pup, Rory, and a 1976 Airstream Argosy in tow. Her motto: Life is a scenic road, take your time and enjoy the ride.

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