What To Look For When Purchasing A Used Car

Purchasing a used car can be a great financial decision. You have less depreciation to worry about, and used cars are usually a sound investment. But everyone’s heard horror stories from the used car lot. Here are five things to look for when purchasing a used car:


Nothing says lemon ┬álike a strange wear pattern on the tires. Move the steering wheel all the way left, check the tires, and all the way right, and check them again. Uneven wear may indicate suspension issues, but it also just might mean that the tires were improperly inflated, so check the suspension at your inspection. Check the doors to make sure that they close properly, including the truck and hood. This will also give you a chance to look at the seats and floor. Make sure you don’t see or smell any signs of water damage! Additionally, make sure all lights and signals work properly.


Check all the buttons on the dash, and the window controls to make sure that everything works. Check the windshield wipers, emergency brake, air conditioning, and power steering. Make sure that the interior of the car doesn’t smell musty. That indicates water damage, which can be a huge expense.

Check the Big Five

It’s time to get a little down and dirty with your potential purchase. Look at the five big areas under the hood: the oil, coolant, power steering fluid, radiator cap, and brake fluid. For the oil, anything other than a tar black color or consistency is fine for the time being. When you check the dipstick, if you see any thick film of milky crud, walk away. That’s engine sludge you don’t want to deal with! The coolant, power steering, and brake fluid should all be checked for levels and leakage.

Test Drive

When you take the car out for a spin, try and recreate your normal driving conditions. If you do a lot of mountainous driving, take it up the steepest hill nearby. If you’re constantly on the freeway, get it up to at least 65mph. Listen for sounds in the engine, feel how the car steers and breaks, and listen for smooth shifting during acceleration and deceleration. Keep the windows open on your drive so you can listen for these sounds. On your test drive, you should stop after about twenty minutes to check your transmission fluid to make sure it doesn’t look or smell burnt.

Have it Inspected

Inspections are just as important as the test drive. You need to know what you’re getting into before you start negotiating price. If you’re dealing with a private seller, you may have to do some research on your own. When you contact the seller, be sure you ask if it’s alright if you have the car inspected at a certified mechanic, assuming you still like the car when you see it in person. Once you’ve gotten the green light from your seller, take it to a trusted mechanic to have it checked out.

Once you’ve checked the car out, driven it around your area, and had it inspected by a trusted mechanic, if everything checks out, it’s time to start negotiating a price. Happy driving!