Watch Out for These Red Flags When Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car can be a great decision. You save money and you get what you need. However, used cars aren’t always what they seem and hidden problems can make them more hassle than they’re worth. Here are some red flags to watch out for when buying a used car.

Too Good To Be True

If the price of a used car is too good to be true then it probably is just that. This is a big red flag.¹ Sure, sometimes you come across a truly super deal or a buyer who’s anxious to sell for personal reasons that have nothing to do with a problem with the car.

But other times you’re being taken for a ride. The seller is betting on you seeing the low price and jumping to buy as is, without doing a proper inspection or reading up on the vehicle’s history and issues. Don’t jump into a sale and beware of used cars that are so cheap you wonder why. There is usually something big wrong with them that the seller is hoping you’ll overlook.

Sketchy Vehicle History

Beware of used vehicles with a sketchy history. When you buy your car from a seller or a lot you get the basic info such as its mileage and whether the car was salvaged after an accident or damage. In some cases, a car’s title can be falsely forged, however, so you should cross-reference the Vehicle ID Number (VIN) with the DMV before you purchase it.

It is also a good idea to order a vehicle history report from a place like AutoCheck or Carfax so you can see what the car has been through. Any dealer or seller who doesn’t want to tell you the VIN or where you can’t locate the VIN inside the vehicle is one you should avoid as it could be a stolen car.²

Lack of Inspection

Buying a used car can take some time, but you should always make sure that you hire a mechanic to inspect the vehicle before you buy it. If the seller or dealer won’t allow that you can make a safe bet they are trying to hide something that’s not great about the vehicle.

Even if you have to pay your money to a mechanic to inspect the vehicle it can be more than worth it in the long run and save you way more money than just driving off on a wing and a prayer or the seller’s word.³

Warning Lights Blinking

When the check engine light is blinking you can have a problem. The seller may tell you it’s just on the fritz and not to worry, but without a thorough inspection you should not take their word for it. Sometimes it really is nothing, but verify first.

If all sorts of warning lights come on and the engine runs poorly then even a low price might not be worth it. The expense of fixing broken down cars can really add up.⁴

Worn Out Interior And Exterior

If you notice rust and a worn-out interior and exterior this can be a big red flag. It isn’t really about the appearance so much as it’s about the actual durability of the vehicle. Furthermore, a faded or mismatched interior with different car mats can indicate the car was flooded or damaged in the past and its body may have serious issues.

The bottom line is you want to drive in a vehicle you can trust and if the used car you are looking at looks rickety and feels like a wobbly flamingo rolling down the road then you’re better off saying “thanks, no thanks,” and finding a different used car.³