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5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Used Car

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So you have made up your mind that you are going to get a used car. But what are some of the things you need to look for when shopping for a used car – besides the price? Keep reading to find out.

5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Used Car main image(license)

Buying a used car is a lot different from buying new. You are making a major purchase without some of the safety nets that come with buying new. Because of this, there are several things you should consider before you buy. And although budget tends to be a primary concern for most used car shoppers, you need to keep in mind that getting a great deal on a used car is about more than just the price, it’s about getting the most – and the best – car for your money.

While it’s pretty much common knowledge to get a vehicle history report, a mechanic’s evaluation, and to do a thorough test drive on any car you consider, it’s always best to start your shopping by narrowing down the list to the best-used car models. To find those models, past and present issues of Consumer Reports, J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, and the internet is three of the best places to start your research. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a used car.


No matter how low the price, if a used car doesn’t drive the way you want and need it to, then it’s pretty much useless. Reading performance reviews of various cars when they were new is the easiest way to narrow your search down to a few ideal car models. A car that drove poorly when it was first released is not likely to have improved with age. What you want to look for are models that have plenty of power, good fuel economy, and stable handling.


Just like with performance, a car that had an uncomfortable, low-quality interior when it was new will most likely be worse for wear as a used car. Studying reviews from when a car was new should tell you how many seats there are, whether or not they’re comfortable, and what kinds of materials are used in the interior. Reviewers also often mention if they think the materials should hold up well over time. You’ll also get actual dimensions for things like cargo and passenger space, which a lot of used car sellers might simply describe as “big.”

The Exterior

You also need to inspect the exterior of the car carefully, too. In general, you need to look at the body, the tires, the paint job, and the general condition of the car.

  1. The Body – check every inch of the car’s exterior for scratches, dents, rust or obvious signs of repair. Minor cosmetic flaws and small, light scratches are not a cause for concern, but anything larger should be a red flag. Ensure that the paint color is the same on every body panel, and there should be no misaligned panels or gaps which can indicate a poor repair job. Also, check the body and beneath the car for any blistered paint or rust.
  2. All Glass – look carefully at all glass on the vehicle and make sure there are no cracks, big chips or large pocked areas. Inspect the rubber seals around all windows for any signs of rot or tearing.
  3. Doors – open and close all doors, the hood, and the trunk. Make sure none are loose on their hinges which can be a sign or hard use. Inspect the rubber seals, too.
  4. Lights – have a friend help you check and confirm that all lights are in working order and that the lenses covering the lights are all there and in good condition without any cracks, or fogging due to moisture.
  5. Tires – carefully inspect all tires, including the spare if there is one. Look for signs of uneven wear or tear, scuffing, or any cracks, bumps or wire showing through. Also, make sure that all four tires are the same, and check that the tread wear is even across all four tires and that it is not too low.

In Summary

Buying a car is a big investment, both in money and in safety. Therefore you should always carefully inspect a vehicle before buying. In addition to the tips above, you should also consider having the car looked over by a third party mechanic that you trust.

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