What to Look for When Buying A Used Car

 Buying a used car can be a great way to save money when you are looking for a quality vehicle but don’t want to spend a fortune on it. But what you need to remember is that choosing a decent car is not a question of luck but of applying good research and wise decision making instead. 

The following tips will help you not to get lost in the market and find the best deal. 

Get a detailed view of the market 

Before any purchase, you’d better understand what exactly you are looking for. To avoid buying a trouble-prone vehicle, complete your own research to identify models with a good reliability record before you begin shopping. First of all check Consumer Reports’ Car Reliability annual subscriber survey which will provide you with real-world consumers’ opinion on the most and less reliable cars. That can significantly narrow your vehicle selection.

Find a trusted dealer 

Once you know exactly what you need, the next step will be to find when to get it. 

The first thing you should pay attention to is how long the company is on the market. Don’t forget about your own research. Check a used car dealership with large experience and good customer reviews. 

Check the VIN

The VIN is The Vehicle Identification Number and it really can give you a lot of information about the car. First of all, it’s actually the best way to check if a used vehicle’s VIN data is matching with what’s in the vehicle title and records. There are a number of VIN decoders available online, including one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The VIN can also be used to see if there are any recalls on the vehicle. You can look up a vehicle by VIN on the NHTSA’s Safety Issues and Recalls page to see if the vehicle needs repairs due to a safety recall. But you should keep in mind that certain brands and international vehicles may also not be listed.

Inspect carefully

Inspection is essential and the most important part of a car choosing process. You should pay attention to four ingredients when choosing a decent car: interior, exterior, Under the hood: Engine related components, Under the vehicle.

One very important tip here is to bring your friend or a professional mechanic with you. Consider yourself the luckiest person if you have a friend who is a mechanic.


This part is the easiest but still requires precise attention. Here is the list of what should be checked: 

  • Body condition. Check each body panel and the roof, looking for scratches, dents, and rust. Examine the lines of the fenders and doors. Misaligned panels or large gaps can indicate either sloppy assembly at the factory or shoddy repair. 
  • Suspension. To check it, you will need to stroll around the car to see if it’s standing level. Then bounce each corner up and down. If the shock absorbers are in good shape, the car should rebound just once; it shouldn’t keep moving up and down. Grab the top of each front tire and tug it back and forth. 
  • Lights and lenses. Here we will need a reliable friend. You should ask him to confirm if all the lights are working properly.
  • Tires. All four tires should be the same otherwise it gets suspicious. If some of the tires have been replaced that can mean the car has been in some accident and we don’t need it.



Remember, you are going to spend most of your time inside this car so it’s very important to be satisfied with every tiny detail. 

  • Seats. Try out how comfortable each of them is. Even though you are not going to seat in each you need to be sure that your passengers are also going to feel comfortable.
  • Instruments and controls. Turn the ignition switch, but without starting the en­gine. All the warning lights, including the “Check Engine” light, should illuminate for a few seconds and go off when you start the engine. Note if the engine is hard to start when cold and if it idles smoothly. Then try out every switch, button, and lever.

To check under the hood: Engine related components and Under the vehicle sections you will need to hire a professional. Of course, you could do it all by yourself but to make sure you don’t miss anything and have everything checked properly a mechanic would be the perfect option. You will need to see if everything is fine with fluids, radiator, battery, tailpipe and this is much work. Even though the mechanic examination might cost around 100 $ it might save you a much bigger amount in the future. And even  If a salesperson tells you that an independent inspection is not necessary because the dealership has already done it, insist on having your mechanic look at it. 


To sum up we’d like to tell you that the most important in purchasing a used vehicle is to avoid any rush. Be sure to make proper research of the market, find a qualified person to help you with a car inspection, and check for the best dealer. 

We hope that this article was useful to you. Be wise and enjoy your first drive. 

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4.4 / 5. Vote count: 10

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


Jean-Claude Landry
Jean-Claude is the Senior Editor at eManualOnline.com, Drive-My.com and Garagespot.com, and webmaster of TheMechanicDoctor.com. He has been a certified auto mechanic for the last 15 years, working for various car dealers and specialized repair shops. He turned towards blogging about cars and EVs in the hope of helping and inspiring the next generation of automotive technicians. He also loves cats, Johnny Cash and Subarus.