Getting a used car is almost always a wiser financial decision than buying a brand new, off the lot sparkler. The reason being that a brand new car’s value decreases significantly and instantly once you take it home. All cars depreciate in value, new and used, but a used car won’t cost you nearly as much… as long as you don’t end up with a lemon. At, we want to help you determine if a used car will be a good buying decision, and help you avoid getting a piece of junk. Here are some tips that should help you as you consider buying your used car.

Tip 1: Research the kind of car you are interested in. You want to take note of common complaints and repairs—so you know what you might need to pay for in the future, and if the potential repairs would be worth it. You can also learn what car owners of that model think about the car you are interested in. Consistent negative reviews probably indicate a problem with that model car, and you may want to consider looking into another.

Tip 2: Get a vehicle history report. Before you even consider purchasing a car, submit the vehicle identification number (usually located on the driver’s side, front window) through a reputable VIN checking sight. The VIN should provide you with important information including how many owners the car has had, a record of reported repairs, how the car was used (as a rental car, for personal use, etc.), if it was salvaged (or totaled), if it had serious flood damage, or if the car ever had a recall on it.

Tip 3: If you aren’t buying from a private party, work with a reputable dealer. Research the dealership, and find out if they are Better Business Bureau affiliated. You’ll want to know if that dealership has regular, unresolved complaints, as that could indicate an untrustworthy dealership. A disreputable dealer may be more likely to sell you an unreliable car.

Tip 4: Get the car inspected by a trusted mechanic before you buy. If you are interested in a car from a private seller, he or she should be willing to show you the record of major repairs and maintenance. Then, have your mechanic look it over. You should know of any repairs that you may need to make in the near future, if major parts were replaced due to an accident, or if it has flood damage. This inspection will cost you, but it’s worth it if you can have peace of mind on the car you want, or for avoiding a terrible deal. If your mechanic can foresee common, but needed repairs in your future, and you still want the car, that could also help you in negotiating the price of the car. If you’re buying from a dealership, and they won’t let you leave the lot to get the car checked out, bring a car-familiar friend or family member with you to help look it over.

Tip 5: Be wary of used cars boasting of a new paint job. This could mean it was in a recent accident that required new parts, body-work, and a fresh coat of paint. And for cars not boasting of new paint, you should check for paint spray anywhere it doesn’t belong, as that could be a sign of an undisclosed accident or a paint job to cover rust.

Tip 6: Watch out for flood-damaged cars. Even after checking the VIN, you might not learn everything you need to know about the car you’re considering. Sometimes flood-damaged cars are sold at auction with a record of flood damage, but end up with a seemingly clean title because it was retitled in multiple states, and the flood damage record was “washed”. But you can check for red flags in and around the car. First, look for rust on the car. Second, follow your nose. If you smell a moldy or mildew-type odor, that could be a sign that the car has flood damage. Check under the seats and carpets, under the hood, and in the trunk for waterlines, mold, or silt. You may also find silt in the headlights from a flood-damaged car.

Tip 7: Check the oil. Very dark or dirty oil means that the car is in need of an oil change and that the previous owner may not have properly maintained the car. Look for a sticker on the windshield that instructs when the oil should be changed, and compare it to the miles on the car. If an oil change is way overdue, there could be big problems for you if you buy the car.

Tip 8: A car with numerous aftermarket parts, especially performance parts, may indicate that the driver may not have been too careful with the way the car was driven.

Tip 9: When you test drive the car, keep your ears open. Don’t let that chatty salesperson take your focus off of what you need to be listening to—the car. Any strange noises should be asked about, and if the seller or dealer can’t answer them, find someone who can. During the drive, or after, take note of any smoke or a gassy smell. Also, judge the handling… take it on the highway. Suspicious vibrations and sticky shifting could mean trouble. If it doesn’t feel right, trust yourself enough to walk away.

Tip 10: Know your state’s lemon laws. These can vary greatly, but you could be protected if you’ve bought a car that doesn’t meet the minimum quality standards. You also may want to hire an attorney to help.

Tip 11: Always remember, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Buying a used vehicle can be worth the extra effort it can take, as long as you are cautious and willing to walk away if needed. You want a car that’s going to be reliable, and one that’s going to last for years without costing you a fortune. And at, we want to help you get the car you need, and avoid a piece of junk, even if you have bad credit. If you fill out our free, no obligation application, we’ll try to connect you with lenders and dealers who may be able to help you get approved for the car you need.

Get on the road today.


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