11 Things To Look for When Buying a Used Car

Jerry Baker
April 02 2023

Buying a used car can be a smart choice, offering quality and value without the hefty price tag. However, to avoid potential pitfalls, it's essential to know what to look for when buying a used vehicle. 


In this guide, we will walk you through 10 key aspects to consider before making your purchase, helping you to choose the right car for your needs and budget.

Find Out the Car’s History

Even before you head out to see the car in person, gather as much information as possible about the car's history and any recalls. You can obtain a vehicle history report using the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This report will provide essential information, including:

  • Previous owners
  • Accident history
  • Service records
  • Title status (e.g., clean, salvage, rebuilt)

Check the detailed vehicle history report for any potential red flags, such as accidents that may have caused structural damage or long-term issues. For an extra level of quality assurance, consider looking for certified pre-owned vehicles.

Inspect the Exterior

While having aesthetic appeal can check an important box on your list of things to look for, inspect the exterior of the used car beyond body shape and paint color, looking for any signs of possible concern.


Thoroughly examine the car’s exterior for scratches, dents, rust, and body panel alignment. Small dings are to be expected with a used car, but any larger areas of damage may present long-term issues. Check for signs of paint overspray, as it may indicate previous repairs. Test the lights and signals to make sure they’re functioning properly.

Examine the Interior

Inside, sit in all the seats (yes - get in the back!) and inspect the upholstery for wear and tear. Musty smells or signs of water damage should also be noted. Try out all of the car’s interior features, such as the air conditioning and audio system, as well as electrical components such as lights and window controls.

Check for Leaks

Inspect under the car for any signs of fluid leakage. Black fluid may indicate an oil leak, while green, yellow, or pink fluids could suggest antifreeze leakage. Reddish fluid might indicate a transmission or power-steering fluid leak. Fluid leaks often signify potential repairs in the future.

Go for a Test Drive

Don’t move forward before you have a chance to take the car on a test drive. Pay close attention to the vehicle's performance as you go, noting the handling and overall feel, as well as other details, like whether the windows work well or the seat’s adjustment controls still function. 


Note how the car handles on different road types and speeds. As you drive, listen for any unusual engine or brake noises, and ensure the transmission shifts smoothly. Test all signals to see if they are functioning properly, and confirm that the brakes operate smoothly without pulling the car to one side.

Look at Mechanical Condition

If possible, have a trusted mechanic inspect the car for any underlying mechanical issues or signs of wear and tear. They can assess the engine, transmission, brakes, suspension, and overall condition of the used vehicle.


If the seller is unwilling to allow an inspection, consider it a red flag and move on to another vehicle.

Review Fuel Efficiency

Consider the car's fuel economy and its impact on your budget. With your daily commute in mind, research the average fuel consumption for the specific make and model to ensure it aligns with your needs.

Consider Mileage Carefully

While low mileage can be appealing, it's important to remember that consistent use is better for a car's overall health. Infrequently driven vehicles may develop issues with rubber and plastic parts drying out. This is why it’s more important to focus on the car's maintenance and usage history rather than mileage alone.

Examine Safety Features

Check for essential safety features like airbags, seat belts, anti-lock braking system (ABS), stability control, and traction control. Talk to the seller to ensure they are all in proper working condition, and test what you can while you take the car out for a spin.

Look Into the Vehicle Title

Does the seller have a clean and valid title for the car? If so, make sure it is free from liens or any legal issues. Verify the VIN on the title matches the one on the car.

Determine a Fair Purchase Price

Compare prices for the same make, model, and year from various sources to see if you're being charged a fair price. Utilize online tools like Kelley Blue Book and National Automobile Dealers Association Guides for price comparisons. Remember to factor in the car's condition and mileage when estimating its market value.

Avoid Common Mistakes When Buying a Used Car

In addition to these important tips, steer clear of other common mistakes such as making decisions based solely on monthly payments, prioritizing looks over more functional needs, or failing to line up financing before shopping.


At All Credit Autos, we offer resources to help you search, find, and apply for low automotive financing regardless of your credit. With careful consideration and smart choices, you'll be on your way to finding a reliable and high-quality used car with the resources you need to buy it.  


For more information on auto financing and loans, visit our auto finance page and get started today. Happy car shopping!

Jerry Baker