The Second Time Around: 3 Major Tips When Buying a Second-hand Car

Second-hand car image 122122
Photo by Carlo D’Agnolo on Unsplash.

One of the best investments in life is to buy a car. However, most people often don’t have enough to save for a brand new car. Most opt for second-hand vehicles that are almost as good. Don’t get it wrong; second-hand vehicles are by no means eyesores or bad investments.

When you’re ready to buy a second-hand car, you should get the best out of your money. For starters, a second-hand car has an older engine. While older might not mean broken, it may have some noticeable differences compared to a newer engine. Some might be okay with that, and may even go to their local junkyards to see what interesting bargains there are there. Others, on the other hand, prefer more. Here are some tips to look for when buying a pre-loved car:

Know the History

Most of the time, first-time owners who see a car they like often purchase it right off the bat. Don’t be that eager when you’re buying a car, especially if you’re buying from a private owner or a doubtful dealership. It pays to know the history of the vehicle. You can check a car’s VIN or Vehicle Identification Number to know about its history. No two cars have the same VIN.

A car that has a matching VIN or a vehicle with a scratched off number is a red flag as it can potentially be a stolen car. If you’re one of the eager buyers who don’t do checks, then highway patrol can easily pull you over and charge you with carnapping. Although you didn’t know that you were driving a stolen vehicle, it’s a tiring experience that can leave you traumatized for a long time.

Ask the dealership if the car has any history involving accidents. Some people may not want to drive a vehicle involved in a serious accident as it can bring bad luck; others may want it for the notoriety, etc.

Also, check if the car has been involved in flooding or any other natural disaster. For example, a car that’s been in a flood can have a lot of permanent damage to it. A moldy stench, green discolorations on the floorboard, and several rust spots are common signs that a car has been through flooding.

Checking for a car’s history might be a long and tough job. You can opt for services like a Car Inspection by Lemon Squad and or other services by professional inspectors to help you with the task. Checking a car’s history is quite the job, but it’s totally worth it.

Look it Up Close and Personal

When buying a car, especially online, it always pays to have a personal inspection of the vehicle itself. Pictures on the internet can only tell you so much. Having to see a car in its entirety is crucial and a must. The critical parts of the car, which you’ll need a thorough inspection for are the following:

  • Body: Check the car’s surface to look for any rust. A significant amount of rust on the body may mean that the car is exposed to rain more often than usual. You should also check for scratches that can cost a lot when repaired. Large discolorations usually mean that a car has been repainted.
  • Undercarriage: The undercarriage of a car can tell a lot about its health. If there are lots of rust in the bottom, it’s usually a sign of flooding. Loose wires, leaking fluids, and out of place parts can be a red flag. To properly see the undercarriage of a car, it’s best to bring it to a repair shop that has a car lift.
  • Tires: It’s normal to see tire wear on a second-hand car’s wheels. However, you should always see wear in all of the tires. Uneven tire wear means that the wheels might have been replaced, the wheels haven’t been appropriately attached, or the car has uneven alignment.
  • Engine: Again, it’s reasonable to see wear on a lot of parts of the car, including the engine. However, too much wear is a bad thing and can signal a lot of red flags. A lot of welding spots on the frame can mean that the car has been in a front end collision.
  • Electrical Parts: Check all the wirings, the battery, the starter, and the alternator of the car. Asking for an engine start to hear and see some things with the car is perfectly understandable. Check for the car’s lights to see if they’re working. A damaged signal light, brake light, or headlight is a traffic violation(reckless driving).
  • Fluids: Every fluid in the car has a vital function. Brake fluids are essential to give your brakes more power when braking. The oil keeps your engine clean and free of any dirt. Transmission fluid keeps your transmission cool and lubricated.
  • Interior: Check the interior of the car. The dashboard often gives a clue on the health of the interior of the vehicle. Check to see if there’s any peeling or if there are any discolorations.

If the seats or floor have a distinct moldy smell, then it’s a good sign that a car has been in flood. Lumps on the seats are also tell-tale signs of flooding. Make sure the seatbelts work or are even there. Check if the AC is working, the navigation system is still intact, and the Instrument panel(speedometer, gas, odometer) all light up and work.

Always Ask for Test Drive

Whether a car is brand new or not, a potential buyer should always go for a mandatory test drive. For second-hand cars, a test drive can make or break a lot of deals, that’s why you should always ask for one. If you’re really a serious buyer and you aren’t given a test drive, then don’t bother as it’s clearly evident that the seller has something to hide from you.

As mentioned above, a test drive can make or break a deal because you can get a lot of essential details such as the condition of the engine, the way the car drives, the strength of the brakes, to name a few. Overall, a test drive provides an overall feeling of the car when you get to purchase it and drive it as your own.


Getting a car is a dream that a lot of people would love to become a reality. In the eagerness of buying an affordable car, a lot of first-time buyers often end up driving a car with a lot of problems.

Getting help from professional inspectors that can check the history and the overall condition of the vehicle can be of great help. It also pays to do a personal ocular visit to the garage and see and drive the car for yourself. In the end, it’s your money and finances at stake, and making every detail fit towards your preference, money, time, and effort is a must.