What Steps Must I Take Before Buying a Used Car?

Buying a used car can feel like a very scary situation when it's your first time doing so. There are so many options and sometimes people can be impulsive and end up getting a vehicle that doesn't suit them.

Follow these tips to ensure optimum wellness of your car:

  1. Do your research: It is important to do proper research on the car you're considering buying. You'll have tons of options when it comes to buying a car, so arm yourself with as much information as possible before you make a big decision. When you find a car that piques your interest, ensure there are no major potential problems with it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a list of recalls and Technical Service Bulletins, which will tell you about issues with the car.

  2. You found a car you like. Here’s what to do before meeting the seller: You'll want to know if the car has been in any accidents, has failed smog checks, or had other past issues. Get the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) from the seller, which you can use to learn about the car. CarFax is a good source of car history, taking data from insurance companies, shops, and other providers. Also be sure you know your budget, as well as the fair price and full cost of ownership of the car. There are many online resources for determining the average cost of ownership of a particular car. We also recommend getting an insurance quote as well as pricing on registration fees.

  3. When you meet the seller: Always test drive the car. Ask a lot of questions about the car, including why the owner is selling it and whether they have any service records showing regular maintenance. Visually inspect the car’s exterior and interior to see that they are in acceptable condition, and check for signs of accidents or damage. During the test drive, listen for any strange noises coming from the car during acceleration or braking. Be sure to take the car out on a freeway to ensure it operates properly at high speeds. Test the brakes several times during the drive, braking both hard and normally to determine responsiveness. Check the dashboard for any warning lights. Make sure all the various controls (wipers, blinkers, radio, etc.) and the air conditioning and heating systems work.

  4. Get a professional inspection: If you like the car and it is in good condition, have a certified mechanic do a pre-sale inspection to ensure you are buying a clean, mechanically sound vehicle. Our mechanic's inspection will cover the fluids, brakes, electrical systems, cooling system, suspension, engine/exhaust, HVAC, tires, and body. The mechanic will scan the car's various computers for trouble codes and test drive the vehicle, checking for any hidden problems. Should our mechanic discover any problems, he can estimate repair costs and you can use those to better negotiate with the seller. If you would like a step by step guide, consider exploring the How to Conduct a Pre-Purchase Inspection article.


Next Step

Schedule Pre-purchase Car Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Pre-purchase Car Inspection. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Pre-purchase Car Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(5,189)

Rating Summary
4,847
184
37
38
83
4,847
184
37
38
83

Attila

19 years of experience
906 reviews
Attila
19 years of experience
Cadillac SRX V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Edison, New Jersey
Attila was great! Very knowledgeable and actually detected a fault during a pre-purchase inspection that would have cost me later.
Lexus ES350 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Fords, New Jersey
He is very good—offered all the significant details we needed from the inspection. Helped us figure out what needed to be fixed.

Shawn

12 years of experience
285 reviews
Shawn
12 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Shawn was prompt, professional, and delivered the promised service as expected. This was a used vehicle pre-purchase inspection. Shawn also had to drive to multiple locations to perform the inspection, as the address listed that I provided him with was not accurate, but he still made it to the correct location within his time window and completed the inspection.
Toyota Sequoia - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Akron, Pennsylvania
Shawn was very prompt in communicating with me and was good at helping me decide whether to purchase a used car. He help me avoid a car with a repaired rusted frame that could be a danger to my family's safety since we were planning on using the car to tow a travel trailer!

Luis

18 years of experience
320 reviews
Luis
18 years of experience
Honda HR-V L4-1.8L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Warren, New Jersey
Luis was great. He showed up on time, acted professionally, and gave me confidence with a pre-purchase car inspection.
Acura RDX - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - South Hackensack, New Jersey
Luis did a thorough pre-purchase inspection for me, and found several major issues that made me pass on buying the car. Had I purchased the car, I almost certainly would have ended up paying thousands in repairs down the road. Thanks Luis!

Robert

20 years of experience
1089 reviews
Robert
20 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra L4-2.0L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Englewood, Colorado
He did a pre-purchase inspection for me. He was knowledgeable and fast, and knew what he was looking for. I really appreciate all the pictures and documentation he took of the state of the car before purchase. He noted potential issues with the car that I wouldn't have been able to notice. Would recommend.
GMC Savana 1500 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Golden, Colorado
I trust Robert. He gave me a list and we will take care of it the week of June 29. I will know then that my vehicle is ready for the winter and is safe to drive. I look forward to getting things ready for another winter of careful driving.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

The Best Used Cars to Buy If You Have Kids
Once Once you have kids, the kind of car you have becomes very important. Suddenly, the amount of space, entertainment features, reliability, safety, and easy to clean interior become the top priorities. Here’s a list of vehicles meant to satisfy...
The Best Used Cars to Buy For a Graduation Gift
Your Your little bundle of joy has grown up and on the cusp of entering adulthood. Graduating is a milestone, and you want to reward their hard work and show how proud you are. Buying a used car is a...
How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Car Title in Hawaii
Once Once your car is paid off, the lender should mail you the physical title to the vehicle. This is proof that you own the car outright. However, many of us don’t take the proper care of that essential document....

Related questions

How do I break in my new car?
If you purchased your car new, there are a few driving strategies that you should employ to help break your car in: For the first 200 miles of driving, you should try to avoid hard stops. For the first 500...
How do I know if the timing belt has been replaced?
You are correct in that the car fax may not necessarily always indicate every service performed as not all shops report the services they perform. Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to tell for sure whether or not the timing...
Considering purchasing, however, I am leery of possible high maintenance costs associated with this vehicle. Dependable? High maintenance?
Going from a BMW 135i to a 2014 Porsche Cayenne will obviously cost more in maintenance (https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/how-much-do-maintenance-costs-increase-by-mileage-by-maddy-martin) through the years. From special procedures during repairs, more expensive parts and higher labor costs, you can only expect the upkeep costs to...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com