What to Look for When Buying from Used Car Lots in Chicago

used car lots in Chicago

So you’ve finally decided it’s about time to invest in a car and a slick, brand new one on the TV ads has caught your eye. You know you want to drive something as nice as that one you’ve seen but there’s just one problem – budget. This is where used cars come in. There are several good reasons why used cars are an excellent option but the one that tops them all is how it can help you save money. Deals on new cars may seem enticing but nothing beats going for something that doesn’t only come with a low price tag but also with low depreciation and still is in a great condition.  If you’re a first time car buyer, used car lots may seem to look almost the same. This is why it’s important to gather as much information as possible beforehand. Already decided to buy a second-hand vehicle? Here’s a helpful guide you can use to help you when buying from used car lots in Chicago.


Before you even go car shopping, one of the first things you need to determine is the budget. Whether you’re buying with cash or taking out a car loan, it’s important to find out early on if the car payments could fit in your budget. Ideally, not more than 20 percent of your take-home salary should be spent to pay a vehicle. If your budget is even tighter, you may need to consider reducing the amount dedicated for car payments. Another important thing to consider is the added expense for maintenance and potential repairs considering that you are buying a used car and not a brand new one. 

Target car models

Create a list of your target car models before taking a trip to the used car lot. There are some brands that make great used cars and you have the internet to help you get every bit of information you need about these car models. Utilize the information you can get online before making the purchase. If you’re working on a budget and don’t want to compromise quality, consider many makes and models. Then, narrow down your options until you can select the one that fits your budget and meets your needs.


Now that you’ve already built a list of your target used cars, it’s time to check prices from various car dealers. Prices in different car lots differ and to make sure you’re getting the best deals, it’s best to take time to explore your options. Again, the internet is a valuable resource so take time to do online research besides your visits to different car lots.

History report

Be sure to only get your car from a reputable dealer. Go with the dealer that can provide the information and details you need about the vehicle you want to buy. They should also be able to present a history report of the car to make sure you have peace of mind when you drive it home. 

The vehicle history report is a critical report you should never ignore. It tells you everything you need to know about the car you laid your eyes on. This report contains information on whether the vehicle is in a perfect running condition or whether it has serious internal damages that requires repair, if it was involved in an accident or a crime. A used car is a great option for those who want to score cheaper deals. However, it’s a riskier purchase than when you go for a brand new one so be sure to obtain the history report before making the final decision.


Besides the report, you can learn more about a car’s history by simply taking a look at its mileage. The vehicle may only be one or two year old but you’ll never know how much it’s been used until you check its mileage. As much as possible, avoid cars with mileage of more than 60,000 kilometers because chances are, their parts might have already worn out. 

Red flags

The importance of conducting a thorough inspection when buying a used car cannot be emphasized any further. Do not fix your mind on buying a specific used car without doing an inspection. If you must, bring a trusted mechanic with you. During the inspection, be sure to have the following things checked by your mechanic.


  • The car’s body. When checking the vehicle’s body, make sure it is clean enough so that it’s easier to inspect the surface. A clean body will reveal if the car has flaws on its surface such as dents, rust, chipped paint, scratches, window cracks, etc. If it shows a little discoloration, it may be a sign that the car may have been exposed to acid rain or might have been repainted a few times.
  • The engine. The engine is one of the most important components of a vehicle. Be sure to take a look under the hood and check the engine bay. Does it have a bolted or welded frame? It might have been involved in a collision. 
  • The tires. All four car tires should be evenly worn out. Uneven wear can be an indication that the tires haven’t been properly rotated or that they may have misaligned because of worn suspension and steering components or frame damage.
  • The undercarriage. Take a closer look at the bottom of the car and see if there is a rust accumulation. If possible, have a car lift used for a more thorough inspection.
  • The interior. The car’s interior is just as important as its engine and all the other parts of your car and you can tell a lot about a car by just checking its interior. How does the car smell from the inside? Does it have a pleasant and fresh smell or does it have a distinct stench? If so, it is possible that it might have been flooded. If it smells okay, check the seats and see if there are lumps or if the leather covers have rips, stains or tears that may require cleaning and repair.  Also, the interiors are indicators of whether the previous car owner has taken good care of the vehicle.  
  • The electrical components. Any issue related to the electrical components of a car are more complicated to troubleshoot. Therefore, be sure to have everything checked and make sure that they are all working the way they should. 

Good drive test results

If the inspection is done and you’re pretty much convinced about the used car you’re buying, there’s one more important thing you should never miss before taking it to your driveway – test drive. Take the car out for a test drive because this is the best way to know if this one’s really for you. Drive it at moderate speeds and pay close attention to its brakes and vibrations. Also, try to observe if there are weird noises and if there are functions that don’t seem to be working right. If something doesn’t feel right, chances are you are right. Do not drive a car home if you are not 100 percent sure about. And if the used car dealer doesn’t allow you to take the car out for a test drive, walk away and look for another reputable dealer. 

Going for a used car instead of a brand new vehicle can benefit you in more ways than one. And if you’re ready to find your dream car in a used car lot in Chicago, this guide can come in handy. 

For more information on used cars, please feel free to visit Carfect. 


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