Especially when you have quite a tight budget to buy a vehicle, considering a used car is a good idea. For starters, it is possible for you to get the model that you want at a significantly lower price.
At the same time, going for a used unit also allows you to consider the possibility of getting an even better car model or car type than you had originally intended. For instance, it is possible for you to get a nice used sports car at an affordable price range so that you don't have to get a boring sedan anymore. At the same time, you may also find nice used luxury cars that are priced almost as cheap as other cars.
Meanwhile, another advantage that you can gain from getting a used car is that you would end with a unit that no longer depreciates significantly. You may not realize it, but a brand-new car is subject to a great deal of depreciation from the very beginning. In fact, according to Trusted Choice, a brand-new unit loses as much as 11 percent in value the moment it's driven off the lot. It then loses a total of 30 percent during its first year. Furthermore, a brand-new car would have lost around 46 percent during its first three years and 63 percent during its first five years.
As you can see, there are a lot of great reasons to opt for a used car. When you're shopping for the perfect unit though, you have to be careful. That's because some used cars are absolutely not worth the purchase anymore.
Fortunately, there are a lot of signs that can indicate that a used car is a bad buy. To help you out, we have listed the most common ones along with signs that a used car is worth the purchase.
20 Lemon: Poorly Written Ads
An ad typically only has one job. To sell a product or service successfully to its intended customer. There are a lot of times though when an ad fails. Perhaps, it’s not appealing enough. Perhaps, it doesn’t speak the market’s language. In the case of a car, however, an ad is considered a failure and even a warning sign when it appears very poorly written.
Remember, a car ad, just like any other ad, should look and sound respectable. More importantly, it should display all the important information that you initially need to know about the car. That includes the make, model and year. At the same time, the seller may also choose to include all the features that are available in the unit.
Meanwhile, it would also be great if the seller can state the reason for selling the car in the ad. That way, it is possible to know if the car has suffered any major damage recently.
19 Lemon: Previous owner smokes
If you think about it, smoking is a real bad habit. After all, it is linked to several serious diseases such as heart disease, stroke, asthma and even lung cancer, according to the American Lung Association.
Hence, if you spot a used car for sale and you learn that the previous owner is a smoker, it might be a good idea to walk away.
For starters, it is hard to completely remove cigarette odor from a car once a smoker has used it for quite some time. In fact, once you roll up the windows and drive around, you might find the odor getting much stronger and unbearable.
18 Lemon: Mismatched or Worn Out Tires
The best way to know a used car right away is by taking a closer look at its tires. This is because tires can easily tell you how the car has been maintained and treated over the years.
Before you check for wear and tear, however, the first thing you have to check is if the tires are uniform. That is, all sides of the car are using a tire with the same size and brand. Having identical tires mean that everything has the same size, construction, tread, and pattern. Therefore, it helps you maintain optimum stability and control of the vehicle, according to Tire Buyer.
Now if the tires look worn out, it could indicate that the previous driver has already put heavy wear on the tires and the vehicle itself. Meanwhile, if you spot cupped tires, it can indicate a problem with brakes, suspension or steering.
17 Lemon: Sloppy Paint Job and Bodywork
A used car that is for sale should be in good condition inside and out. That means, there should no problems with the bodywork and there should be no signs of a sloppy paint job. If you spot these though, don’t continue your discussion with the car owner any further.
Go over the entire exterior really well. Check for any presence of rust because this could mean that the structure of the car itself is already compromised.
Hence, this would mean the used car would not last you past a few years. At the same time, this could mean that you still have to spend additional money to get the car repaired.
16 Lemon: Worn Out Interior
A car’s interior an also say a lot of about the condition of a used car during a sale. Go ahead and open the car and look at the interior more closely. If there are any cracks, rips or stains in the seats, check if the damages would be easy to fix. Otherwise, it may be time to abandon the used car altogether.
If you happen to spot any discolorations and stains on the car’s history, it might indicate that the car had suffered a flooding in previous times. On the other hand, if you spot an interior that has completely brand-new upholstery, it can also indicate that the car owner is trying to cover up water damage. To rule this out, make sure, you go over the car’s entire history record.
15 Lemon: Shaky Suspension
When the used car’s engine is on and you hear a lot of banging and rapping noise while the car hasn’t warmed up yet, it could be a sign of serious suspension problems. The same can be said if you end up feeling some strange vibrations on the steering wheel when you are out test driving the car.
You can readily check the car's suspension by pushing down on each of the car’s fender and then letting go quickly.
Ideally, it should rebound softly around once or twice. If it ends up doing more rebounds, it means you are also dealing with worn out shock absorbers. Hence, your ride would be rough even if you are traveling on a smooth rode at average speeds.
14 Lemon: Amateur Modifications
Sure, there are a lot of car buyers who are also true car enthusiasts. These are the people who love spending as much as possible with their car. They generally enjoy taking good care of their unit. And sometimes, they also like making some supposedly cool modifications to it. In some cases though, these modifications can also end up compromising the car’s value and performance.
For instance, there are some car owners who tend to perform homemade modifications on their vehicle. This can result in a backyard suspension tuning and even fake vents. The problem with these is that they can readily make the car unsafe on the road.
If you happen to spot any modifications like this, it’s best to look elsewhere.
13 Lemon: Misaligned Body Parts
When it comes to used cars that are for sale, there a lot of units that seem to have misaligned body panels. What’s bothersome about this is that a lot of car seller would often try to pass these off as “minor surface irregularities,” according to a report from Money Crashers.
However, misaligned body panels are a clear sign that the car had been in a major accident at some point.
When inspecting a used car, be sure to go over its body panels, car doors, hood gaps, and trunks. Ideally, you want everything here to be evenly and perfectly aligned. Check also for any irregularities in the width between the seams that line car’s hood, fenders, and doors. If spot any, that is a major red flag.
12 Lemon: Manipulated Odometer
Typically, a used car for sale that has a relatively lower mileage reading is ideal. After all, it is a clear indication that a car has not traveled much over the years. Because of this, it would not have been subjected to much wear on the road. Hence, it can even possibly drive like a brand-new vehicle.
However, you must also note that it is possible for a car seller to tamper with and manipulate the car’s odometers. Hence, a car can show low mileage despite a lot of signs of superficial wear and tear throughout its exterior.
Go over the mileage information with caution and see if it would add up with the car’s appearance and age. If they don’t seem to match, walk away from the car seller.
11 Lemon: Dealerships Offers are Too Generous
In used car dealerships, there will always be cars that are not as saleable as the rest. It could be because it’s too old. It could be because it has sustained a lot of damage in the past. It could be because it simply looks awful.
Nonetheless, dealers have to find ways to move even their most unappealing inventory. And the best way to attract a buyer to buy a bad car is by giving them an offer that’s just too good to be true.
If the interest rate they are offering you is much lower than market value, it could indicate that they are simply desperate to finally sell the unit that’s been languishing in their store. The car can even be in a much worse condition if the dealership is offering zero interest rates.
10 Lifer: Fair Purchase Price
Generally, the purchase price of the used car can be an indication of whether the unit is in good condition or not. Even if you get a discount from the dealer, the price being offered to you should still be near the average price of the used car. This would indicate that the car is in good condition and can be sold for as a high a reasonable price as possible.
To find out the average price, you don’t need to call other dealerships to ask. Instead, you can go online and look for websites that readily display car average prices. Some websites would even require you to put in the mileage and current condition of the vehicle so that it can fetch you a more accurate average price.
9 Lifer: Intact Glass
The glass surrounding a used car also requires an extensive check before deciding to close the sale. After all, there are some damages to the car’s glass that can end up costing you a lot of money in repair.
Take a careful look at the vehicle’s glass. Don’t just look at the windshield. You should also carefully inspect the side windows, side mirrors and the rear windshield.
Check for any large, pocked areas or cracks in the vehicle. Typically, a small chip is not a cause for concern since it can be easily repaired. In contrast, a crack o the windshield may just worsen over time and lead to an expensive repair.
8 Lifer: Good Reviews of Vehicle Make and Model
Let’s face it. Some car models are simply better than others. These are the cars that have been hailed by car buyers as incredibly reliable over the years. Moreover, some of these car models are just incredible that they have also managed to receive a lot of important awards.
Ideally, getting a used car that has had a lot of great reviews is a good move. Go ahead and check out various car review websites for both good reviews and possible complaints. This way, you are almost assured that the used car would perform well and would not cost you a lot of money on frequent maintenance.
7 Lifer: Good Body Condition
When buying a used car, you want to take a closer look at the car’s body and make sure that nothing seems damaged or even out of place. For starters, both the roof and the body panel must be free of rust, dents or scratches.
Light scratches and other minor cosmetic flaws are not a problem. However, the presence of rust is a red flag.
At the same time, you also have to make sure that the paint color and finish are uniform across every single body panel of the car. If the car had been repainted in the past, check to make sure that the paint did not adhere to the body seals around car’s trunk lid and hood.
6 Lifer: Good Interior Condition
The interior of a used car must look clean and welcoming. Ideally, the upholstery on the seat should not be ripped or appear badly worn. At the same time, you should also check and make sure that the seat adjustment mechanism is still working fine.
Aside from this, check if the rubber on the car’s pedals is not worn out. Meanwhile, all the lights in the car’s instruments and controls should also be working properly. To check this, just turn on the ignition switch without starting the engine. When you do this, all the warning lights should illuminate for a few seconds.
Meanwhile, it is also important that there is no unpleasant odor in the car. This is an indication that there is no mold or mildew inside.
5 Lifer: Absence of Any Leak
The last thing you want to do as a buyer of a used car is to drive away with a unit that has major leaking problems.
To avoid this, make sure you perform a leak test on the used car that you are considering. Take the car for a test drive and take a moment to park it over a clean area on the road.
Let the used car for at least 30 more seconds before moving the car and doing a visible inspection of the road for the presence of any leaking substances. If you don’t spot any type of leak on the road, then it means that the car doesn’t have any problems with the transmission, car oil or anti-freeze.
4 Lifer: Good Engine Related Components
Once you are done inspecting the used car’s exterior and interior extensively, it’s time to pay more attention to what’s under the hood.
First, turn your attention to the car’s hoses and belts. The rubber hoses that run to the air condition, radiator, and other parts should feel supple and firm. At the same time, the drive belts in the used car should also not feel frayed.
After this, go ahead and check on the car’s radiator. Ideally, the coolant here should be orange or greenish. At the same time, make sure there are no greenish stains outside the radiator. This can be a sign of pinhole leaks.
3 Lifer: Good Vehicle History
Sure, you can always have a good chat with the owner to discover the history of a certain used car. However, it would also be great if you can have an extensive look into the history of the unit by going over its vehicle history report.
Here, you would be able to readily see any problems that the car has suffered in the previous months and years. At the same time, you can also have a better idea of the ownership history of the car as well as its service points.
It is possible to ask the dealer for a used car’s vehicle history report. Otherwise, it can also be ordered online.
2 Lifer: VIN Checks Out
Unfortunately, there are a number of used cars that also turn out to be stolen cars. And the last thing you want to do is buy a stolen vehicle which could end up getting you into a lot of trouble with the law as well.
Fortunately, there is a clever way for you to confirm if a used car for sale was not stolen. All you have to do is get the vehicle identification number or VIN number of the car, which can be found at a corner of its dashboard.
Once you have the VIN Number, go ahead and enter it into a VIN decoder chart. This is how you can check if the VIN information would match up with the used car’s title and records.
1 Lifer: Window Sticker
When considering a used car unit, it helps to check if it has a window sticker. According to Consumer Reports, the Federal Trade Commission readily requires dealers to post a Buyer’s Guide on every used car that it has for sale.
This Buyer’s Guide is typically attached to the car window. It should display certain critical information such as whether the vehicle is being sold with a warranty or as is.
In the case of the latter, it means that the dealership is not making any guarantee about the condition of the used vehicle. Hence, if problems are suddenly discovered, it would be up to the buyer to have it fixed.
Sources: consumerreports.org, moneycrashers.com, lung.org, tirebuyer.com