What To Look For When Buying A Used Car

When you make a purchase using links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More.

We have prepared this comprehensive guide on What To Look For When Buying A Used Car so it serves the purpose it was bought for. We encourage you to read to the end so you can be informed.

Obviously, you’re going for a used car because you do not wish to spend so high to own a new car.

Ever wonder What to ask when buying a used car this article answers all your questions.

Maybe it’s going to be the first automobile you’ll own, so you don’t know pretty much about the things to check out, however, we have prepared a comprehensive guide on how does buying a used car works you want to check it out.

Some people would go with a car mechanic to help them inspect the used car before paying, but it’s best if you know the important things to check out; you can’t wholly trust your mechanic.

Following the guides on this article, we are pretty hopeful that you would get yourself a good used car for your need at a considerable price.

Also, it is important to know that your choice of a car is primarily dependent on the purpose(s) it is meant to serve.

Another important factor is your budget. Having these two things in mind, let’s look at this checklist for buying used cars.

What to look for when buying a used car

1. Start with a research

Start with a research
Start with a research

First things first, you need to launch a research.

The research is to validate the type of car you want, as well as the possible budget you need to buy it.

Are you looking for an SUV, sedan, van, or open trucks? These are things you need to research.

Things to look out for in your research:

  • Different car brands and their offers
  • The type and model of the car you want to buy
  • The model year
  • Is your choice car allowed/available in your country?
  • What’s the possible maintenance cost of the car
  • Will you easily find a car mechanic to fix the car in case of breakdown or emergencies?
  • Price of the car

The research checklist may look cumbersome, but you really need to learn about these things before forging ahead to buy a used car.

However, here’s a breakdown of the tips.

  • There are popular brands like Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, and many more – you may prefer a particular brand, but you have you learn more about the brand and its cars.
  • Toyota has Camry, Corolla, Avalon, Prado, and quite many other models – these models have unique features; ensure to check out the various features of your preferred model and see if it meets your need for wanting to buy a car.
  • Also, every year or every 3 years, car brands do release new versions/models for their various cars; obviously, a 2020 model of Toyota Camry arguably performs better than its predecessors.
  • It is not enough to buy a sound car; you have to always practice several car maintenance techniques to keep the car in perfect shape at all times.

    Thus, you should seek to know the average maintenance cost of the car you want to buy.
  • Finally, in some countries, it is difficult to locate a car mechanic that can fix some specific car models.

    For example, you may find it extremely hard to get a mechanic to fix a BMW car in some Sub-Sahara countries.

    Thus, you may have to consider Mercedes, Toyota, Nisan, and other common brands that have rampant car repairers nationwide.
  • Certainly, you are looking at a particular budget; thus, you should check if your dream car falls within your budget or maybe, you should check for close alternatives.

2. Run exterior and interior checks on the selected car(s)

Run exterior and interior checks
Run exterior and interior checks

When you have decided on the car brand and model you wish to go for, the next thing to look out for is the car’s appearance.

You have to start from the outside and then inside; thus, you’ll check the external body and its features before heading to check the inside.

Crucial Notice: Before proceeding to check out a car, ensure that it is parked at an even road/surface.

If the car is parked at a slope, don’t inspect it! Tell the broker or dealer to get it to a flat road. This is very important; it is also a buyer’s guide safety tip.

Things to look out for when checking car exteriors

Glasses and windscreen

Scrutinize the screens and look out for pocks; this check should start from the windscreen and then to all other screens/glass on the car.

Brush your palm across the screens to ascertain that they’re as smooth as they appear. Don’t forget the side mirrors in this check.


You should also inspect the lights, which include the headlights, fog lights, trafficator lights, etc.

Tell the broker or seller to get into the car and turn on the lights so that you can be sure that they are all working.

The car body and tires

You know that you should do this – carefully inspect the car’s body to ensure there are no suspicious marks such as bullet holes, fatal dents from accidents, etc.

Move on to the tires and check their expiration dates. Most especially, inspect the tire threads using a Lincoln coin.

Here’s the test; insert a coin with Lincoln’s head in-between the tire threads – if you could see a part of Lincoln’s head, the tire threads are beginning to wear out, and you have to change the tire.

Furthermore, examine how the door responds when trying to open or close the vehicle.

Do you find it difficult to open or close the door? If yes, that’s a problem to note down.

Things to look out for when checking car interiors


Your dashboard is one of the first things a passenger would see when he/she enters your ride. So, it is a place to examine carefully.

What are the things to check on a car’s dashboard?

  • The dashboard lights, are they functional? This is vital because you need those lights when driving at night.
  • Are the meters working fine? Ensure that everything on the dashboard is reading accurately to help check the mileage, fuel level, and other stuff.
  • The AC vents
  • Is the dashboard physically damaged? Did you see a noticeable mark?


Next is the upholstery used on the car seats; are they worn out or torn? Is the car upholstery hiding foul smells?

Also, are the front seats adjustable? Can you tilt it and move it forth or backward? These are things to scrutinize.

The important stuff

There are other important areas to check out; they include the rooftops, car steering, brakes, and everything other things you could think of testing.

3. Check the engine and under the car

This aspect may require you to employ the services of a car mechanic – the mechanic should help you check the car engine, as well as examine the components that lie beneath the car.

Check the engine
Check the engine

In fact, this is a vital aspect of buying a used car. If your mechanic doesn’t recommend the car after inspecting these areas, you should reconsider and find an alternative.

The alternative can be the same car model but a different one. Also, it can be a close model from another brand.

You have to work in hand with the mechanic; therefore, you should ensure that you go with a trusted and experienced car mechanic.

4. Consider the mileage and important (rubber/metal) components

It is important to check a car’s mileage before paying to own the car. The mileage simply identifies the number of miles the vehicle has covered over its lifetime.

Mileage is considered when valuing a car or any automobile; however, not everyone can be able to read/calculate a car’s mileage.

Reports show that a car is expected to run an average of 12,000 miles annually.

So, in simple understanding, a car that read 50,000 after being used for about 6 years is seemingly a good buy.

In contrast, if a car reads high mileage over a short time, it is arguably not a good buy.

If you’re buying a 2015 car in 2020, the mileage should be around 50,000 to 60,000.

Even 70,000 can be considered, but the mileage reads up to a hundred thousand (100,000) or higher, the best advice would be to ditch the car for another.

Nevertheless, in one of its posts, AutoTrader hinted that a used car’s mileage is not as important as how the previous rider maintained the car.

There are other vital components to check in a car – if those components are working fine and don’t look like they are failing soon, then the mileage is less important.

You should that when a car has very low mileage, it is likely not a great buy, too.

How do we mean? If a 2015 car reads just 20,000 miles in 2020 (after 5 years), it implies the car was parked more often than it is being ridden.

When a car or an automobile is not being constantly ridden, it causes some metal and rubber components of the car to dry, freeze, or rust.

This isn’t a good thing, you know?

But, notwithstanding this fact, the lesser the car mileage, the more promising the used car is, with respect to durability. ‘

Summarily, while checking the mileage, do well to get information on how the car was maintained and the shape of its core components.

5. Run VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and VHR (Vehicle History Report)

When you run the VIN test, it exposes a lot of information about the car. There are tools for running the Vehicle Identification Number test.

This test helps ascertain if the car is legitimately available for sale or if the car has a bad record, such as being used for robbery, killing someone in an accident, etc. This information is really vital, and you should know about them.

The VIN is the same as Chassis number – no two cars have the same number irrespective of whether they are the same model and manufactured from the same year.

VIN is usually a 17-digit number securely inscribed on the dashboard, body, or just anywhere around the car.

You will find the VIN of different cars in different locations.

One sad thing about VIN checks and tests is that they are not always 100% accurate.

But, it does help to tell one or two things about the car you are about to buy.

There are several hidden information in a car’s VIN; thus, you should ensure that the information you get when you run the VIN test matches what the car seller has told you.

Vehicle History Report, as the name implies, is a test that helps to detail the previous records of the car.

It is also important that you run this check on the used car you want to buy. Also, VHR is checked using the VIN or chassis number of the car.

6. Test run the car

At this point, you should test run the vehicle – depending on the car dealership rules, you can take the car for a long ride to check how the brakes, gears, steer, and other aspects respond to your control.

Test run the car
Test run the car

Attempt to run the car at high speeds and on low streets; if possible, take the car to a highway and take it to city roads.

Pay attention to any sound you hear when switching the gears or applying the brakes.

Every sound and reaction you get should be clarified and dismissed for a good reason. GO WITH A MECHANIC.

A lot of used car buyers do ignore checking out the exhaust pipe and fumes it disperses. This is also very important, and don’t take it commonly.


When you have checked out all of these things and feel satisfied to buy the used car, you can make the payment.

Don’t be in a rush to buy a car! You will most likely end up with a badly damaged one that would cost you huge expenses more frequently than supposed.

Take your time to check the vehicle – it can take days for you to complete your check.

If the car dealer or broker looks impatient, ditch him and go to another dealer/broker.

Don’t be careless or try to please someone else when buying a new or used car – if you make a mistake in this regard, it could cost your life and that of others.

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ads blocker