What to Look for When Buying Used?

So, you’re considering a pre-owned car, truck, or SUV. Congratulations! Not only are used vehicles more affordable thanks to the effects of depreciation, but they’re excellent value – allowing you to purchase more feature-rich vehicles for less. But what should you look for? After all, one of the main pitfalls of purchasing used is the possibility that the previous owner neglected the vehicle. So how can you protect yourself? By following these simple steps!



When you first visit the vehicle, make to carefully inspect the exterior. Check panels for fitment and unusual gaps which may indicate an accident. Carefully inspect the body for rust, especially in the wheel wells and underneath the vehicle (this may indicate further rusting in the vehicle’s undercarriage).

Next, take a look at the windshield and the lenses. Check if the windshield is cracked and requires replacement. Look at the headlights and taillights to see if they’re chipped, cracked, fogged, or have water in them. It’s also a good idea to check that the lights themselves work, including high beams, indicators, and reverse lights.

Also take note of the paintwork – does it have chips? Dents? Scratches? What about the wheels – do they have curb rash? Do the tires still have decent tread left on them? Calculate how much it would cost to repair any of these items, or if you’re even willing to repair them.



Next, climb inside the vehicle. Check the rubber seals on all the doors and trunk to ensure they haven’t perished. Inspect the seats – are the worn or torn? Do the seat belts still extend and retract properly? Open the glove box and centre console – do they latch properly? Switch the vehicle on and check to ensure the mileage is as expected, also check to see if any warning lights remain illuminated.

This is also the perfect time to ensure all electrical equipment, such as heated seats or power-folding mirrors, all work properly. Don’t forget even small items – like the overhead lights or those in the sun visors (if equipped).

And of course, be sure to test major items like the radio or infotainment system, and if the air-conditioning system blows both hot and cold.

Finally, be sure to check the trunk. Check to ensure that items like a tire jack or lug wrench are still there (if equipped). It’s also a good idea to inspect the spare tire (is it still inflated? Does it still have tread left?) as well as the tire well itself for any signs of rust or moisture.



Last, but certainly not least is the mechanical inspection. Upon starting the vehicle, listen for any screeching – that may indicate worn belts. Next, check the transmission by firmly pressing the brake and shifting through the gears – does it shift smoothly? Or does it clunk into gear? Now take the vehicle for a test drive. How quickly does it warm up? Does the engine run hot? Are there squeaks or clunks from the suspension? Any grinding noises or vibration from the brakes?

Now firmly press the accelerator (when it’s safe to do so) – does the transmission downshift smoothly? Does the engine rev freely or does it hesitate?

Finally, once the test drive is complete, and the engine has reached normal operating temperature, it’s a good idea to check the engine’s oil to ensure it’s clean and there’s sufficient oil levels.


Now that you’ve carefully inspected the vehicle and taken it for a test drive, it’s time to make a decision on whether or not you still want it! Consider all the issues and problems that vehicle has, then calculate how much it would cost to fix them (or if you even want to fix them). Once you’ve decided how much you’re willing to spend on this vehicle, you have a better starting point when beginning price negotiations.