What To Check for Before Buying a Used Car

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Buying a used car can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s hard enough deciding which vehicle is right for you, let alone trusting the word of a stranger on the vehicle’s condition. What’s important to remember is that being thorough in your initial inspection will help you out a lot. To make sure you get a vehicle you actually want, we made this guide on what to check for before buying a used car.

Vehicle History

The history of the vehicle you’re purchasing is an essential component to understanding the deal you might get on it. Don’t be afraid to ask the current owner as many questions as possible to get the real history of the car. You can also get the vehicle identification number (VIN) and use online resources to find out its background. Look for any previous accidents or recalls on its specific model.

Exterior Damage

This is one of the easier things to check for before buying a used car. There are several problems the exterior might have that can tip you off that the deal isn’t quite as good as you thought. Watch out for:

  • Paint chipping
  • Rust and oxidation
  • The car sitting unlevel on the ground
  • Scraped bumpers


Make sure to pop open the hood before you buy any vehicle—old or new. Especially on older vehicles, though, you need to make sure the engine is in working order. This is another place to check for any patches of rust as well as cracked hoses, broken belts, or fluid leaks. It’s also worth your time to take a look at the levels of oil and transmission fluid to make sure there isn’t discolored fluid.

Tire Condition

Getting all new tires is expensive and sometimes inevitable; however, you might be able to avoid this if you closely inspect the used car’s tires. You want to look for any signs of punctures, which should be rather obvious, but also keep an eye out for the condition of the treads. Not only should the tires not be too worn, but all four should be worn down the same amount. If they’re not, it could mean the car has a poor alignment.

Working Electronics

You don’t want to get into your car only to find out the radio is busted or the air conditioning doesn’t work. Always be sure to turn the car on and inspect all its electronic components. You want to look at:

  • Air conditioning
  • Heat
  • Radio
  • Bluetooth connection (if applicable)
  • Automatic windows
  • Seat warmers (if applicable)

Drive Feel

Don’t pull away from the seller until you take that used car on a test drive. Everything might look in order, but the feel of the drive could still be all wrong. Listen for any strange noises the car makes, as that could be a sign of some underlying problem. If the car feels good to drive, you may have just found your newest vehicle!

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