Used cars are an affordable choice if you’re after a functional ride. It can be tricky to find the most sensible option, though; here are some things to look for during a used car check to ensure you’re getting a quality vehicle.

Inspect Both The Exterior And The Interior

Identify any scratches, dents, rust, and large areas of damage on the car exterior. Check for mismatched paint or overspray, on the hood, trunk, and doors. These indicate possible repairs and repainting. Inspect the car interior as well. Check for wear and tear on the upholstery, check for musty smells, and inspect the carpet for water damage.

Go On A Test Drive

A test drive can help you determine if the car is a good fit for you. Check if all the dashboard warning lights go on. If they don’t, or if the light for some areas stay on even when you turn the ignition, ensure that the seller resolves the issue first. When you start the engine, listen for clicking sounds, which means there could be a problem.

Try driving the car on different types of roads and varying speeds to see its performance or how the transmission shifts. Note any strange sounds or smells, unusual engine or brake noises, and if the car’s electronics work well.

Examine The Car For Any Leaks

Leaking fluids of any kind are a red flag for a vehicle. Check under the car for them. Black fluid could be leaking oil, while green, pink, or yellow might mean a leak in antifreeze fluid. Reddish liquid could mean a leak in the power steering fluid or the transmission.

Find The Car’s VIN

The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN reveals much about a car. You can check the information in the title and records with the VIN decoder chart. You can get a free VIN check online to see if there are recalls on the vehicle. The NHTSA’s Safety Issues and Recalls page will show if a vehicle needs repairs because of a safety recall. Note that you might not find certain brands or models in the guide, either because they are old models or from international manufacturers.

Check If There Is A Vehicle History Report

The car’s vehicle history report lets you see ownership history, service points, and previous accidents. It also lists title problems. According to the Kelley Blue Book, you can get this report online for free if you enter the car’s VIN or license plate number. A dealer should be able to provide you with a free history report.

Check If It Is A Certified Pre-Owned Car

A Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) car offers additional quality assurance and gives the buyer peace of mind that they’re getting a good deal. KBB says that manufacturers have different standards for CPO. Generally, though, these are five years old or less and have fewer than 75,000 miles on them. The dealer would have also checked major systems, offer a warranty, and gotten reconditioning for the vehicle.


Getting a used car is not a bad option, especially if you have other expenses or priorities. You only have to know what to look for when buying a used car. To be sure that you’re getting the best quality vehicle at your budget, consult a car specialist.

Avoid buying a used car with hidden problems when you use zipVIN. We provide a free online VIN check service for people who want to know their prospective purchase’s vehicle history. Check our sample report and FAQs or get in touch with us for inquiries!

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