Not everyone can afford a brand new car, and there’s nothing wrong with buying used.┬áBeing an informed buyer can save you from buying a lemon. Here are the 8 steps we recommend when you go look at a used car.


Check the Tires

Park the car on level ground, and look at the tires to make sure there is nothing sagging. Tires on close inspection should be worn evenly. Uneven wear and feathering can be signs of bad alignment. Ask to see the spare tire and compare it to the other tires if it’s a full size spare. Poor tires don’t necessarily break the deal of buying a used car, but be prepared to negotiate the price if you’re expected to get new tires and pay for an alignment.

Check the Paint

Look for scratches, dents, and rust. Also look for paints that don’t match 100%, that could indicate an accident in the past. If the owner isn’t telling you about any accidents and you see evidence of one, don’t buy the car.

Lift the Hood

Look for clean, rust-free components under the hood of the car. Hoses and belts shouldn’t have any cracks, and the frame around the hood should be free of dents. Take off the oil filler cap and look at the coolant in the overflow container. If the coolant is filthy and brown, it could mean there’s a leaky head gasket; not something you want to tackle. Also take a look at the transmission fluid, it should be pink or red and not smell burnt. Check if the fluid level is full with the car running.

Look Inside the Car


Take a look at the upholstery and make sure there are no rips, holes, or stains. Beware of bad smells in the interior of a car. It can be hard to get funky smells out of a used car, so if it’s not something you can live with, don’t buy it.

Take it for a Test Drive

Check the A/C, defrost, and heater to make sure they work. Make sure all the turn signals work. Take your hands off the wheel and see if the car goes straight or veers right or left. This is a sign the alignment could be off. Test the breaks on your test drive for squeaking or grinding. Also take the time to check the radio, glove box, and other areas inside the car. Make a list of anything that is wrong and ask the owner what they will take off the price to compensate.

Ask for Records

The owner should have kept the service records for the vehicle. Not everyone keeps records, but ask for them anyway. If the owner doesn’t have detailed records, get a carfax report on the car. It’s not that expensive, and it will tell you if the vehicle has been in an accident or not.

Look under the car

Even if you don’t know a lot about cars, there are things to look for; so climb under the car and take a look. If you see dark brown oil stains around the engine that could indicate a gasket lead that could lead to an expensive repair bill. Look for leaking oil and brake fluid. If you see something that doesn’t look right, take the car to your mechanic for a once-over before deciding to buy the car.

Bring a Friend

When you look at a used car, it’s a good idea to bring someone with you who knows a thing or two about cars. Offer to take your friend to lunch on the way home, and it could save you from making a bad decision on a car that needs a lot of repairs.

What steps do you follow when shopping for a used car?