5 Important Things to Check Before Buying a Used Car


Two Friends Series


Whether you are looking at a car from one of the used car dealerships Albany or from a private seller, you need to check on a few things before you jump into buying it. First, you need to make sure the internet approves of this vehicle. Check out what people are saying about it online, and see if it’s a car you are even interested in. Second, it’s important that you grab a vehicle history report, and make sure it doesn’t have a shaky past.

Third, make sure to look at the outside and inside of the car when you get there. Fourth, check for any wet spots or leaking underneath the vehicle, because this usually indicates a problem. Finally, it’s important to pay attention to any funny smells or sounds you notice.

These five things are all easy ways to check and see if the car is ultimately a good purchase, and anyone can do it.


What Does the Internet Think?




This might not sound like an important thing to check, but it is. The internet offers a wealth of information, especially the testimonials of current (or previous) owners of the car you are interested in. Visit websites like Edmunds to ensure you are getting reliable information from actual drivers of the car. On these websites, you will be able to see any common problems, individual issues with the car, its strengths, its overall weaknesses, what it’s lacking, etc.

Even if you aren’t looking for any consumer reviews, these are still great websites for information. Edmunds provides an expert review of the car in question and breaks down everything from safety to fun features. Not to mention, these websites also have all the specs of the vehicle laid out for you. This way, you can find information like fuel economy, transmission information, engine options, and even the size of the tires.

It doesn’t matter if you are looking for owner reviews or research on your prospective vehicle, the internet is a goldmine of information; make sure to use it.


Vehicle History Report


Startup Stock Photo


Another thing that is imperative to check is the vehicle history report. Thankfully, the internet is there to help again. Carfax is a website that provides an in-depth report on your vehicle, and it will reveal things like title problems, ownership history, service points, and any past accidents. That way, you can cross-reference this information with the information on the dealer’s website to make sure it matches up.

How is this done? By grabbing the VIN number off the car. VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number, and is a way to keep track of the vehicle. Simply input the VIN number, and then start reading about the vehicle’s past.

If you discover anything sketchy in the history of your vehicle, such as it was involved in an accident that isn’t listed, then don’t bother with it. It’s better to be safe than sorry when buying used cars, and the last thing you want to do is get stuck with a lemon, or worse: a vehicle that’s been stolen.


Exterior and Interior Aesthetics


Junked Car


If you did some research on it and liked what you saw, then it’s time to go look at the vehicle. The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the vehicle is the condition of the outside, then you’ll notice the condition of the inside. Look closely; the aesthetic quality of the vehicle tells you more than you might think. Here are a few examples:

For starters, if you look at the vehicle and notice it has a different quarter panel this means it’s probably been in an accident and there could be more damage done to the vehicle than meets the eye.

A fresh coat of paint, even if it’s all matching, could just be a courtesy on the part of the seller. Or, it could be hiding rust. I’m not saying this is an end all be all scenario, just make sure to look out for that and ask questions if you see a fresh coat of paint.

Open the doors and the trunk and look inside. If it’s wet inside, that indicates a leak. This car will rot from the inside out eventually, and you don’t want it. When inspecting the trunk, make sure to lift up the carpet and take a good look underneath so you can see everything.

Even a three minute once over will indicate whether it’s a vehicle you want to seriously consider.


Leaking Fluids


A shot of checking engine oil dipstick in car


Make sure to also check for any wet spots on the ground. On that note, it’s important to only check a vehicle on a dry and clear day. That way, wet spots can’t be hidden from view. Wet spots underneath a car indicate leaking fluids, and it could be anything from windshield wiper fluid to engine oil. Either way, best to keep moving if you notice any leaking fluids.

After taking the vehicle for a test drive, make sure to pull over and look underneath the car again. Certain fluids won’t leak until you actually drive the vehicle, so it’s important to check after you take it for a test drive.


Funny Smells or Sounds




While on that test drive, make sure you pay attention to any funny smells or sounds. Like I said before, these could indicate anything from a minor problem to a serious issue.

A sulfuric (rotten eggs) smell could indicate an issue with the battery, and that is something you do not want to mess with. Maybe you smell something burning – that could mean oil leaking and burning on the engine, or it could be coming from the transmission. Either way, that means the car doesn’t have that much life under the hood and if it’s being sold “as-is” then you will be responsible for fixing it when it breaks. If the cab itself smells like old cigarettes, that means the previous car owner was a smoker, and the smell is now trapped in the heating/ac system of the car, and it will never go away.

As far as sounds go, that’s pretty self explanatory. Anything like the engine racing when you step on the gas, clunks, clanks, bangs, or squeaks when driving can (again) indicate anything from a minor to major problem. Take it to a mechanic and have them inspect it, they’ll be able to tell you what’s wrong with it and if it’s worth buying.


Just Be Cautious

When you go shopping for a used car, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you check off the items on this list and have a clean vehicle history report, you never know how well the previous owner took care of it. It’s important to understand that there is no guaranteed life expectancy when buying a used car; but, that’s also why they are so appealing. If you drop $1,000 on a car that lasts you two years, then it’s easy to just go buy another one. No monthly car payments, no loans, no hassles.

Even if you check it out yourself, you should still get it professionally inspected. Professional mechanics are trained to see problems with vehicles other people can’t and will help give you peace of mind with your purchase.