10 Important Things to Check When Buying a Used Car

Buying a new car is the ultimate dream for most people. However, the price of new vehicles continues to skyrocket every single day, and there is also the ongoing issue of depreciation; making the purchase of a used car very good sense. But keep in mind that not every car is worth your investment. Some used vehicles will ensure that your dream of owning a reliable mode of transport turns into a horror story, so you must be careful what you buy.

Here is Best Buy Imports checklist that we put together to guide you through the process. Don’t find a reason to skip any of the steps listed. You never know where problems might be, so make sure you cover them all, including those requiring information from the seller. If you don't ask, you can’t expect the information to be  volunteered. Many sellers will not tell you the car had major repair work done to it; you have to find it for yourself.

Here’s what you may need to have with you when you check out a vehicle you’re interested in: a magnet and a mechanic, or someone knowledgeable with the inner workings of  cars . When a used car seller sees you with a magnet, they most likely will volunteer any information about bodywork repairs and accident history.

1. Check for Flood Damage

Floods occur every year, destroying many vehicles. The water from floods can destroy the car's upholstery and the interior, break down metallic parts with rust, and ensure that the overall dependability of the vehicle is compromised.

Smell the inside of the vehicle. Take a sniff at every inch of the interior. Take your time and concentrate on the task at hand. Check under the hood and any other pars that may be hard to reach. Check for signs of mud or mold. Any signs of dirt might indicate poor maintenance, and mold is a pretty sure indicator that the car has been flood damaged.

2. Check for Signs of an Accident

You may want to roll up your sleeves for this one. Start with the front. Take a few steps away from the vehicle. Check for uniformity in the appearance of the car. Inspect the car closely. Run your fingers along panels and edges. Everything should be smooth. If it is not, the dealer or seller should explain. It is at this stage that the magnet comes in handy. Hold the magnet over the uneven surfaces. If the magnetic attraction is not uniform in all metallic surfaces, it usually indicates bodywork has been done. Ask the seller about it. Was it an accident? Was it major or minor? What was the insurance report about it?  Also scrutinize the frame; any signs of welding or realignment indicate that there was an accident.

3. Check the Wheels

Tires should wear evenly. If not, there could be problems elsewhere. Inspect the wheels one by one. Run your palm over them to feel for poor tire wear. Tires should generally be in good condition unless the car is being sold at a bargain price. If they are not uniform, let a mechanic inspect the suspension and overall tire alignment. Some used cars for sale specifically because they have issues. Don't inherit those problems.

4. Do A Test Drive

If possible, do your test drive without the seller, and with your mechanic. The keyword here is smooth. Listen to the engine while parked, while driving and braking, on a highway. Feel the braking systems and listen. There should not be any screeching or unusual sounds. Try emergency braking too at around 25-30 miles-per-hour. It will tell you if the brakes are in reasonably good condition. Give the steering a workout. Turn as many times as you can. Try sharp turns on both sides. It should be easy to navigate left or right with relatively the same ease.

5. Ensure There Are No Leaks and Oil Spots

Take a visual inspection of the hood, the chassis, the engine, antifreeze and virtually anywhere else on the car. Stop the car on a clean surface and leave it running for some time, then check the surface to see if there are any leaks. Green, red or black leakages spell trouble.

6. Check for Rust


Inspect every inch of the car for dirt and rust. Look down on every side. If you have to squat to get a better look, do so. You can also place the car in a service bay to inspect the chassis and the rest of the undercarriage. Rusts can indicate poor maintenance or flood damage.

7. Do a Vehicle Review


What do people say about the model? Not everybody will like the car model or brand, but you can look at the most common cons that people raise about the car model. If it is a car model you have owned before, you may skip this and go for an advanced review. Also check the used car dealer's reviews.

8. Check the Availability of Parts for the Car

Car models that have problems with replacement parts often have negative reviews. It is usually because that model is no longer manufactured. This may or may not be a problem due to the discontinuance of certain models during the recession of 2008. Just to be sure, you can call the manufacturer or local car parts sellers to find out if they stock replacement parts for that car model.


9. Locate the car's VIN and have it checked


Make sure you can find the vehicle identification number. Confirm its authenticity. Each VIN identifies the vehicle model and manufacturing date. The trick here is to decode the number. Ensure it matches with the vehicle registration records.

10. Check the Car’s History, Including Recalls

Lastly, review the car documents. Check all transfer documents to ensure that they are intact. Missing documents are a red flag. Ensure that there are documents to show maintenance schedules. If someone claims to do at-home servicing, let him prove it. Regular maintenance in a car shows that the person before you took reasonably good care of the vehicle.

Once you are done with the steps above, you can now evaluate if the selling price is reasonable. Factor in all the variables:

  • Does the car require immediate repairs? If yes, how much will they cost?
  • Are there structural damages to the car? If yes, can you overlook them?
  • How much is the selling price, and how does it stack up against prices for comparable models?

You can find tools online that can help you calculate the fair price of a vehicle. A used car dealership can help, but don't take their word for it. Use your judgment to gauge the reasonable value of the car.


There is a lot of good value in the used cars market. Many dealerships sell certified used cars. These vehicles have undergone multi-point inspections and any necessary repairs and adjustments to insure they are in good operating condition. Also, many dealerships will include a warranty with the vehicle purchase.

At Best Buy Imports, all of our vehicles have been carefully inspected using an extensive multi-point inspection system and reconditioned so that they’re almost as good as new. These cars also offer an extended warranty, so you can drive off with the confidence that if you encounter any troubles down the road, your new vehicle will be covered. 

While browsing our online inventory, take advantage of the CarStory feature. CarStory is an independent service that will let you know how the make and model stacks up against similar models in terms of safety and reliability. It also compares the price and value of the exact vehicle you’re looking at compared to similar options on the market. And you can get data from CarFax about the car you’re looking at, including odometer reading, accident reports, and number of prior owners. You’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips, without even leaving our website before you come in to see us in person!