What To Look For When Buying A Used Car: Ultimate Guide

buying a used car

Buying a used car could be a very costly mistake for you in the long run if you’re not careful and don’t do your research.

Your car is likely to be very important to you and your family, getting you from A to B and so on.

So we can both safely assume that it’s quite important to know what to look for when buying a used car right?

In this blog post, I’ll tell you what to look out for, and what you should do when you’re buying a car.

Check The Interior And Exterior Quality

When you go to visit the car that you’d like to buy in person you’re going to feel excited and probably overwhelmed!

Does it have wheels?

Great! Time to buy the car and drive away – wrong!

Firstly, you want to walk around the car’s exterior, work in a clockwise or anti-clockwise fashion around the car you’re looking to buy.

  • Does it have any scratches?
  • What about dings or dents?
  • How’s the paintwork?
  • Any rust?

You want to pay particular attention to the wheel arches, there’s likely to be some rust in this area, but there shouldn’t be large chunks of the car missing!

Large Sections Of Rust On A Car Is Bad

Even if you’ve checked the car on the outside and everything looks okay, you might end up parsing a few bits of rust as being perfectly normal.

Whilst rust is going to be there on a car, any large section is pretty bad and you should walk away from these cars.

The Car’s Interior

Right, so you’ve inspected the car’s exterior, it’s now time to inspect the car’s interior.

Do you have the keys to the car?

If not, now would be a great time to ask for them.

If you’re buying a used car from a dealer, they shouldn’t have any problems with handing you the key and then leaving you to do what you need to do…

But, a private seller is likely to want to stand by – this is fine, so long as they don’t try to prevent you from looking and inspecting the car.

If they try to obstruct you, this could be a sign of a problem with something and is likely going to raise your suspicions.

Check The Used Car’s Mileage

A car’s mileage doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong with the car, it also doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unreliable.

A common misconception is that a higher mileage car is going to be far more unreliable than a newer car with less miles on the clock.

This simply isn’t a great way to judge a car’s reliability as it’s all about the type of miles rather than how many miles.

What Are The Used Car Mileage Types?

Really, there aren’t many mileage types and they are pretty straightforward:

  1. City – these miles are pretty hard on a car, there’s a lot of stop start traffic, changing gears and getting in and out a lot.
  1. Highway – by far the best mileage, there’s not a lot of gear changes, you’re at one speed most of the time, and it’s great for diesel cars.
  1. Urban – a mixture of both highway and city miles combined, likely to be an average of the both.

Generally speaking, a car might have 100,000 miles, but if 70% of these miles are mostly longer journeys and/or highway miles, they’re going to be a lot easier on the car.

And the car’s components…

What Is A Good Used Car Mileage?

You should try to look for a car’s age and then make an assumption that the average annual mileage of a driver is 12,000 miles.

For example: a 2016 car that does an average of 12,000 miles a year should’ve done around 48,000 miles by the end of the year 2020.

Over time, the car that you’re going to buy will start to develop rubber seal leaks and cracks in pipes, this is all normal for a car.

A lower mileage car will of course take longer for the rubber to deteriorate when compared to an older, car – this is part of the car’s aging process.

Check For Leaks On The Car

Cars are complex pieces of machinery.

They’ve got different systems and pumps to make sure they’re operating correctly, but if there’s a leak, these systems don’t work correctly and may show a light on the dashboard.

Common leaks tend to be found in the cooling system and radiator of a car, and you might need to get down onto the ground to check for these signs.

Other forms of leaks on a car can include oil leaks, which aren’t great, to potentially fuel leaks – and these are dangerous!

The cooling system of your car shouldn’t have a leak – it’s a closed system, meaning unlike oil and fuel, the water shouldn’t ever disappear.

Get A Vehicle Inspection

If you’re serious about buying a car you’ll probably need to consider a vehicle inspection.

These are a great way to get a mechanic to inspect the car for you and inform you of potential risks of buying the car.

Vehicle inspections aren’t too expensive as long as you shop around first.

Agree Upon A Fair Price

So you’re interested in buying this car and you’ve checked the obvious things and have used some of my tips for buying a car.

Now you need to agree upon a fair price – this is easier said than done.

Private sellers might not budge from a particular price, where as a dealer might say you’re already getting the reduced price.

In these situations you could just walk away if you feel that the price isn’t fair – you’ll likely get the dealer or private seller calling you back if they really need to get rid of the car.

Final Words

When searching for a car, make sure to do your research first – it’s an important step to figuring out everything that you need to know.