Top 10 Used Car Buying Tips

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It can be stressful to buy a used car, especially if it’s your first car purchase. From choosing the car to arranging for finances and insurance can all be a tedious process. However, it is first important to figure out what kind of car you need and whether it will be affordable to maintain and operate. Pick out four to five cars from the options available and then evaluate them on the parameters listed.

Car Value Basis

Most actual car values are based on:

  • Condition of the vehicle
  • Mileage delivered
  • Reliability
  • Performance characteristics
  • Popularity and personal taste

Cost of maintenance


Check the actual mileage and compare it to the condition of the car

Once you know the make and model of the car you want, it is best to see the car in person. Figure the true mileage of the car and see the mileage on the odometer. You may also use the vehicle identification number to check on Autocheck or Carfax for the car’s record. If the reading on the odometer does not correspond with the actual mileage on record, you may want to consider another car.

Check the windows and all other glass for chips and scratches

Check the glass components and windows for signs of cracks, chips, or scratches. Also, see if there are signs of a particular glass being replaced. Any glass replacement may indicate the car has undergone accidental damage. In that case, you may want to get the car checked to ensure that the repair was done perfectly.

Check the wear on the wheels, tire tread, spare tire, and jack.

When going to check used cars, take along a penny to check the treadwear. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head sticking the penny head into tread grooves, the tire needs to be replaced.

You can negotiate a better deal for the car if the tires are weary and get new tires yourself. Check the spare tire, too, since if this is worn out, chances are the car has been driven rashly under bad driving habits. Also, check for the jack and accompanying tools if you’re planning to buy the car.

Check the outside mirrors, headlights, tail lights, turn signals, and overall body for scratches, dents, dings, and alignment.

The outside mirrors, taillights, and headlights are the first parts to get damaged by a careless driver. Ensure there are no damage, dent, or scratches, and adjusting cables work fine. Check the body on the whole and see if a particular panel has a different color or texture. Also, check for ripples in the car paint.

Check for signs of wear or scratches around latches and door handles.

Scratches or dings near the door handles, or key entries may indicate burglary attacks or problems with locks and electrical wiring. It may also be a case of a forgetful owner who locks the keys inside the car.

Check the carpet for dampness or unusual smells.

Several cars are put on sale after a hurricane. These cars are usually badly damaged and bought at low prices and fixed only temporarily to be sold to an unwary buyer.

Check the upholstery for unpleasant smell or wetness, especially if there has been a recent hurricane or flooding.

Check under the hood (bonnet) and check the oil and other fluids’ level and condition.

Before taking the car for a test drive, while the engine is still cold, take a look under the bonnet. Check the oil to ensure that there has been regular maintenance. If the oil is below minimum line, the car might have been damaged, as it would have been driven without sufficient lubricant, causing friction among car parts. If the oil line is above the maximum, it may indicate that the car uses too much oil, and the seller does not want you to know it. If you know how to, check the transmission and brake fluids, or get a mechanic to check it.

Check the seats and seat belts and check the interior for smells.

Check if all the seat belts are fastening properly. Look around the interior and do not be deceived by clean, shining interiors. Check if the interior lights work, check for upholstery damages, and for unpleasant smells. Also, check for frayed wiring and odd residues under the seats.

Check the glove compartment for the car’s manual and other papers.

You are likely to find the maintenance record and a manual about the car in the glove box. Check the console between the seats as the driver seldom uses glove boxes. On the inside lower-left corner of the windshield, check if the inspection sticker is recent. Also, find the registration sticker either on the windshield or the license plate.

Test drive the car

The test drive is the most important part of buying a used car. Take the car to a familiar neighborhood and see if you are comfortable driving it. Ensure that you can familiarize yourself with all driving controls. Test if the car is running smoothly and if the full stop’s acceleration is noisy or rough. Check for any blind spots from the driver’s seat. Check the audio system; however, try to drive a while without the music to check for any squeaky noises or rattling sounds. Check if the gear shifts smoothly, and if you live in a hilly landscape, take the car uphill to better test engine performance. See if the steering response is quick and if the shock absorbers and springs are in good condition. Also, check the brakes or have a mechanic check the car machinery as a whole. Lastly, check if the car offers enough passenger space and cargo space alongside fitting other needs and requirements you may have from the car. Once you have checked all of these aspects and are satisfied, chances are you’ve found the right car. Now negotiate a deal and check for documentation and finance to finally drive the car as your own.

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