December 1

Important Things to Look for When Shopping for a Used Vehicle


Although a used vehicle is a cost-effective alternative to buying a new one, it’s not without risks. There are several key things that you need to look for when shopping for a used vehicle to make sure you’re getting a good deal and not inadvertently purchasing a lemon. Here we look at some of these factors.

Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report provides you with a wealth of valuable information pertaining to the condition of the vehicle. This report can clue you into things that you won’t find during your physical inspection of the vehicle. This document will inform you whether the vehicle:

  • Had multiple owners.
  • Received regular services.
  • Was salvaged or rebuilt.
  • Had the mileage rolled back to an incorrect number.
  • Suffered from a major accident, flood, or hail damage.
  • Is covered under a warranty.
  • Was leased or used as a taxi or police vehicle.
  • Was subject to a recall.

Exterior Concerns

Carefully inspect the exterior of the used vehicle for signs of wear, tear, and other damage. Look closely for rust, paint chips, dents, frame damage, and anything hanging from the undercarriage. Though small cosmetic issues may not deter you from making the purchase, they can inform you of underlying issues, such as more serious rust beneath the vehicle or a recent accident that caused dents and scratches. If you determine that the cosmetic issues aren’t a major concern, you can still use them to negotiate a lower price on the vehicle.

Issues Under the Hood

The condition of a vehicle’s engine and other functional components is more important than its aesthetic appeal. Pop the hood and check the oil. If the oil is low or dirty, this is a good indicator that the previous owner did not care for the vehicle properly. Inspect the battery indicator to see if it’s still in the green or has a more concerning yellow or black indicator that usually means that the battery needs service or replacement. Check for other issues as well, like cracked hoses, fraying belts, and fluid leaks.

Tire Condition

Ideally, the tires will still have ample tread. Place a penny in the tire tread and look for the top of Lincoln’s head. If you can see his entire head, the vehicle needs new tires. If the tread line hits Lincoln’s forehead at the hairline, you will need to invest in new tires shortly, but you have a little time.

Check the wear on all four tires to see if it’s uneven. If tires are properly rotated and balanced through their lifespan, they will wear evenly. If the tires display uneven wear, the vehicle may be poorly aligned, and it’s likely that the driver didn’t perform proper maintenance, like tire rotations.

Vehicle Mileage

The average car wracks up around 14,263 miles a year. Divide the miles on the vehicle by its age to determine whether it’s been driven more or less than average. A vehicle that’s accumulated a lot of miles in a short amount of time may have a shorter lifespan. Meanwhile, an older vehicle with relatively few miles may present an outstanding deal. Though you won’t have some of the features of a newer car, you’ll still enjoy a long lifespan and may be able to negotiate a lower price due to the vehicle’s age.

Interior Concerns

The interior features and functionality of a used vehicle make a big difference in how much you’ll enjoy your drive. Slide behind the wheel and assess the comfort of the driver’s seat. Everyone has different requirements in this area. Tall drivers need ample leg room to maneuver comfortably, while shorter drivers may feel better in a more compact space. Lumber support is critical if you suffer from back problems.

Heating and cooling are essential features for a comfortable ride in most climates. Make sure that both work properly before you purchase a used car. Check the stereo and other entertainment features as well. Does the infotainment system work properly? How do the speakers sound?

Consider how the seating will suit your typical passengers. If you drive teenagers around or carpool with adults, you may want to prioritize extra legroom in the second row. A young family will need to determine how many car seats can fit in the back. Stained or frayed upholstery is difficult to fix, so you may want to avoid these issues if you typically keep your car neat. However, if you have small children that make a lot of messes, you may be alright with some stains. Cosmetic damage may also affect the value of a vehicle.

Performance on a Test Drive

You should always test-drive a used vehicle before making a purchase. Plan a route that allows you to test the acceleration, braking, suspension, turning radius, and maneuverability. Try parallel parking the vehicle to see what kind of visibility the mirrors or cameras provide. Drive at both low and high speeds so you can listen to the gear shifts and see how smoothly the vehicle drives.

Lift your hands from the wheel briefly at a speed of around 20 miles an hour and see if the car pulls to one side, indicating poor alignment. Test the emergency brake to see how well it holds. Thoroughly check the vehicle’s functionality to make sure there are no pending problems.

A Professional Mechanic’s Report

A professional inspection can reveal problems you won’t catch any other way. If the vehicle passes all prior inspections, take it to a professional for one last look before you commit to buying it. The mechanic can identify both current problems and those that will likely develop in the near future.

If you’re looking for a used vehicle, we have a wide selection waiting for you on our lot. Come visit Huffines CJDR Lewisville to explore your options and learn more about what’s available in your price range. We can find a great fit for nearly any type of driver.


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