Buying Pre-Owned/Used Cars: What Should You Look Out For?

Duped. This is what happened about a couple of years ago to someone we just currently worked with. They bought a used car, and it was a lemon. We thought it was just perfect to help you check whether or not you’re buying something worth it.

Oftentimes, when buying your first car, it’s easy to get excited and just buy one that fits your budget. However, have you ever been sold a lemon? If not, that’s good. We can even help you not buy a lemon.

1. Test Drive

It is best to keep your eyes and ears finely tuned when test driving a car. Making sure that you drive the car on both a highway and local roads will help make sure that it runs smoothly. Besides running smoothly, listen to the engine and look at any electronic parts of the car. If the engine makes a weird sound in your knowledge, then it may be best to move on to another car option. Look to see if the automatic locks or radio/sound system in the car works well. Also, when changing gears or using the gear shift and the brakes, see if they work properly.

2. Leak Test

More often than not, this is usually missed out on. Sometimes excitement can cloud judgement, so check if the car has any leaks. Any car that leaks is immediately a red flag as it will need repair. To get the idea of what you’re looking at, keep this information at hand:


  • Black fluid: probability of an oil leak.
  • Green fluid: antifreeze leak.
  • Pink fluid: (the worst) indicates a leak in the transmission.


So, while on your test drive, stay in an area with a clean road. Keep the car running for about 30 seconds or so. When you go and move the car a bit, inspect through the side mirrors and rear view mirror if there are any leaks.

3. Aesthetics

Stains on the car seats, banged up side of the car, tiny scratch on the bumper. Check every aspect of the car. The aesthetics of the car can play a role in the car’s value. You may want to look out for signs of rust. Ask to open the hood and see what’s inside. Even if you don’t know anything about cars, you’ll know if you like the inside and out of the car. This way you will know if this will cause you trouble in the long run or actually help you. Here’s a list the DMV asks you to inspect when buying a used car.

4. Mechanic Inspection

Just like the leak test, many don’t take that time to find a mechanic to help inspect the car. This one mistake can leave you with a lemon or an actual car. So, find a friend or a mechanic and pay the small fee to have them inspect the car (or cars) you’re looking into. This will help with determining the value of the car as well as making sure you won’t have a liability in your hands.

5. Upgrades and Replacements

Don’t be afraid to ask your sellers about things that were upgraded or replaced in the vehicle. More often than not, some of the replacements used in cars aren’t compatible. So, going an extra mile to know what has been altered can save you a lot in the long run. In light of this, you should know that improper installation of accessories can significantly affect the vehicle’s performance and durability.

6. Certified Pre-owned

Want to have a little extra assurance on the quality of the car? Grab a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle. Beyond being ensured that you’re getting quality, it’s also a wise choice. Usually, when a vehicle is certified, you will get “new car” benefits like warranties and free checkups. Imagine that! New car benefits with a used car. That’s definitely a steal, right?

7. VIN

Decoding the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN of a vehicle is quite important. In fact, you would lessen the risk of buying a VIN cloned car. If you didn’t know, this is illegal, and you could find yourself in a lawsuit. Furthermore, you don’t want to be caught up in a scam. Some sellers replace the VIN of a stolen car with that of a legal one. So, checking the VIN will help you match information on the vehicle and its records.

8. Vehicle History

This is more useful than you think. Knowing a vehicle’s history can help reveal a number of information hidden by your seller. It can show you title problems, service points, previous accidents, ownership history. Basically, the whole shebang of information you should know as a potential owner. You can order this online through a third party search, or the DMV, or from the dealers.

These eight pressure points of buying a car may seem like a daunting task. But, it is better to be safe than sorry for buying something worthless, right? The next time you are planning to buy a car, make sure to follow these points. Maybe you would even have other points you’d like to add. So, reach out to one of our agents at Carfect, and we can help you with these.


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