What to Look for When Shopping for a Used Car

Posted Tuesday, Mar 01, 2022

Buying a locally used car can be a wise investment, but can also be a start to unending visits to your garage. With so many locally used cars up for sale, sifting through while trying to find your next vehicle can be tiresome and confusing. When looking for local used cars, little things can make or break the deal.

When shopping for a used car, it's important to keep in mind the vehicle's history, its features, and your needs. It's, therefore, good to be vigilant when inspecting any potential purchase.

But don't worry; we're here to help with our list of things to look for when shopping for a used car.

Vehicle History

The first and most important thing about any used car is its history. Many buyers automatically assume that because a vehicle has been in an accident, it will have mechanical problems later. While this may be true, there are plenty of high-quality used cars out there with good records.

There are multiple ways to investigate a used car history, including Carfax and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information. These reports will show accidents reported to the agency and any issues that may be wrong with the cars now or could become faulty in the future.

It provides valuable insight into what you're buying, including repairs or damage done by former owners

Rust or Paint Damage

One of the most common problems with used cars is rust or paint damage. If a car has been in a significant accident, the frame will probably be damaged.

Look for rust spots around door frames, tail lights, inside the car on the floorboards, underneath the roof, or undercarriage.

Frame damage can be expensive to repair and is often not covered under a warranty. It's essential to check for this before purchasing a used car. You should also look at the car's body for any dents, scrapes, or other signs of damage.

While this should not be taken as an immediate reason to dismiss a potential purchase, it might be because of poor upkeep

Frame Issues

Along with rust and paint damage, frame issues are another common problem with used cars. If the frame of a car is bent or twisted, it's costly to repair. Sometimes, the frame may not be repaired at all, and the car would have to be scrapped.

Check the front and back portions of the unibody chassis for deformities. You might not want to jump in to purchase a used car without knowing if there are any issues beneath the surface.

Frame damage can be expensive to repair and makes a car unsafe to drive.

Under the Hood

Problems with the engine, transmission, and other under-the-hood components are common issues that customers encounter when shopping for used cars. Checking fluid levels, looking for leaks, and listening for strange noises are all good ways to know how well these systems function. 

If any major repairs have been made in this area, find out why they were necessary and how much they cost.

The engine should be clean and free of any fluid leaks. The hoses and belts should also be in good condition. If there are any signs of fluid leaks or damage, it could indicate something wrong with the engine and needs repair or replacement. 

Tire Condition

Car tires are the first things to wear down. While looking for used cars near me, checking tire conditions is imperative before sealing the deal.

Worn tires can be dangerous both on wet surfaces and during prolonged driving. They can also decrease a car's fuel efficiency. Check tires should for wear and proper inflation.

The tires should have no visible damage like cracks or bulges. If the tires are in poor condition, you'll need to replace them soon after buying the car.

Car Mileage

When checking out your target vehicle, mileage is something else you should pay attention to. It may seem like getting a used ride with low mileage will protect your pocketbook in the long run; however, this isn't true.

The age of a vehicle isn't just determined by its year or model but by its mileage. Past 100,000 miles, cars are considered high-mileage vehicles that have worn down.

If there's a history of the car being consistently driven below its optimal level, it could result in the engine and other mechanical problems down the line. So, if you're looking at a car with 50,000 miles on it that's been sitting in a garage for the last five years, it might not be the best idea.

Interior Electronics

When checking the interior of a used car, it's essential to check all the electronics systems, including the stereo, air conditioning, and heating system.

Check all the seat belts and make sure all compartments open and close properly. If there are any signs that the previous owner abused or neglected this part of the car, it might indicate other poor maintenance or wear-and-tear problems.


The upholstery on a car can also signify how well the vehicle has been taken care of. The seats, door panels, and headliner should all be free of rips or tears. If there's excessive wear or damage, it could mean that the car has been driven hard and may have other mechanical problems.

Test Drive

Before purchasing a used car, it's vital to take it for a test drive. This will allow you to feel how the car handles and whether it's comfortable to drive. You should also listen for any strange noises or smells that may show a problem with the vehicle.

Have the Car Inspected

If you're not sure whether or not a used car is in good condition, it's a good idea to have it inspected by a mechanic. This will help identify any potential problems with the car that may not be obvious from just looking at it.

Negotiate a Good Deal

When engaging a used car dealership, it's important to negotiate a good deal. The price should be based on the car's condition and how much work needs to be done on it. Be sure to research the prices of similar vehicles to get an idea of what a fair price would be.

Get the Paperwork Done

Once you've negotiated a good deal on a used car, it's time to finalize the purchase. This includes getting the title and registration transferred into your name. Be sure to read through the contract carefully before signing it to ensure that everything is as you agreed upon.

Get the Best Local Used Cars in Our Showroom

Are you in Columbus, WI, or Racine, WI, and looking for well-maintained and excellent local used cars at affordable rates? At Gates Auto, we have a large inventory of different pre-owned car models in our showroom. We not only provide you with a variety of models but can arrange car financing for you.

Call us today or visit our showroom for a test drive to get your dream car at an affordable rate.