Things to Look For When Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is a great alternative to buying a new car. Buying a used car means you can use it for some time and resell it to make a profit, which is not so with a new car. Studies show that a new car starts losing value the moment it’s driven out of the dealership lot.

However, buying a used car requires some paperwork and research. There are a few things to look for so you don’t regret your action of buying a used car. The general rule is to buy with your head and not with your heart. Buying with your head means you’re leaving no stone unturned.

What to Look For When Buying a Car

Here are a few things to look for when buying a used car:

Check the Vehicle History Report

Reviewing the vehicle’s history report is usually the first step when planning to buy a car. With the car’s history report, you gain some knowledge about the vehicle you’re planning to buy. Information gathered from this report includes the vehicle’s service points, title problems, previous accidents, and ownership history.

While some dealers are ready to provide the report free, it will cost you some dollars to get a vehicle history report online. It’s worth it, though, and you have to do is to provide the vehicle’s license plate number or VIN.

Check the Engine

The major concern when buying a used car is the engine. While you can easily understand the state of the vehicle’s body with mere inspection, checking the check might not be an easy task, especially if this is your first time handling a car.

Vehicles’ engines are bound to develop faults due to the huge amount of wear and tear they experience.


Since different fluids run inside and under the engine, used cars with no maintenance are prone to leaking.

You can know if a used car has an oil leak by checking underneath for signs of oil. Oil on the tarmac under the car means the car engine is leaking. Most times, the oil underneath the engine accumulates road dust.

Checking the engine’s underneath is not enough when looking for oil leaks in a car’s engine. The bonnet is also a victim of oil leakage.

Once you identify an oil leak, discuss with the seller how to fix it. If you’re to fix the problem yourself, ask that the price be bitten down. It’s usually wise that you let the seller fix the issue themselves, as you might not know the severity of the problem.

Head Gasket

The head gasket is a thin part sitting between the engine block and the cylinder head. The purpose of this component is to prevent engine oil or coolant from entering the engine’s cylinders.

Look out for a blown head gasket, as it is always a culprit of many problems, such as rough sounding engine, loss of power, smoky exhaust, and even total engine failure. A head gasket is said to have blown if it’s leaking.

Exhaust Smoke Colors

Another important thing to look for when buying a used car is the exhaust smoke colors. The color of smoke that comes out of the exhaust gives an idea of the car’s engine status. It’s normal if the car releases a little puff of smoke when just started. Hence, give it a few minutes.

If the smoke from the exhaust is blue, it means the engine is burning oil, meaning the oil is somehow getting into the cylinders.

Gearbox and Clutch

Checking the gearbox and clutch is not usually what you can see but feel. Hence, the best way to check these parts is to take the car for a test drive. While a car can have either an automatic or a manual gearbox, what you’re ultimately looking for is a gearbox that engages all gears smoothly and quietly. A deviation from this means a problem.


If there is one thing you can do with mere eyes when checking a used car, it’s checking the car’s bodywork. What you’re mostly looking for are painted or replaced panels that might suggest a past accident.

Check every part of the car’s bodywork, such as the underneath, outside, and inside. Old repairs are no cause for alarm since they have been completed. They even give a picture of the car’s past.

Wheels and Tires

One important factor to pay attention to when buying a used car is wheel and tires. You want a car with decent wheels and tires, as you can’t afford the consequences of running on bad wheels and rubbers.

Ensure that each wheel is void of damage, and each tire has no splits, cuts, bulges, or gouges. A good tire should have at least 1.6mm tread around it.

If you notice that any of these is not in good condition, discuss how to change them with the dealer.

The Interior

The interior of the car you want to buy says a lot about it. It even lets you know if the mileage is genuine or not. For example, a car with 25,000 miles should have a decent interior similar to a new car. If a car’s interior is more worn and tired than its mileage suggests, something is fishy, meaning the dealer is hiding something.

Warning Lights

Ask for the ignition key and start the car. What you want to check for here are the warning lights. If any warning light is malfunctioning, call the dealer’s attention to it. This also goes with checking the mileage – if it’s as advertised.

Take a Test Drive

Finally, take a test drive of the car you want to buy. While you’ve got an idea of what to expect from your potential investment, you get a feel of it by taking the car for a test drive.

The common mistake most buyers make is to assume they know everything about the car with just the visual checks. Don’t be shy to ask for a test drive. Good dealers should be happy to accompany you on a drive.

Ensure you switch to all the gears and pay attention to the car’s response to each gear. Also, drive the vehicle at different speeds and listen to irritating rattles and engine noise.

If everything goes well after this, congratulation, as you have just found a good investment for your money.

Ready To Flip Your First Car?

Join our members who have used our strategies to build car flipping business without experience, and with only little money!