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January 21, 2016

Spotting Flaws in a Used Car

Buying a car, whether you’re buying used or new, can be just fraught. If buying new, our culture has lead you to believe that the auto dealership is going to do absolutely everything it can to cheat you out of as much money as it can.

If buying a used car, our society also has led many of us to fear the used-car salesmen in a big way: he – or she – is far worse than a seller of new cars because a used-car salesman is trying to a) cheat you out of as much money as he can and b) try to sell you an absolute lemon of a car.

Here at PAACO, of course, we argue that car salespeople are not trying to make you pay an ungodly sum for a used car. And we definitely have no intention of trying to sell you a lemon!

But unscrupulous used car salespeople do exist, unfortunately, and they do try to sell cars that have seen – we’ll put it nicely here – better days.

So we’ve put together some tips for you to help you spot flaws in any used car you may be considering buying.

Always ask for a copy of the car’s vehicle history report. This is a document that tells you how often the car has been sold, if it’s been in any accidents or if it’s been stolen (the last two are big red flags). The report also lets you know if the car ever was used as a rental car. Many people shy away from former rental cars because many of us who rent cars often “abuse” the car some while renting it because – after all – it’s not our car!

identify bad used car

You may not want to purchase a car that’s been in an accident. Check its vehicle history report.

Take a good long look under the car. You’re looking for hanging or dragging parts or any indication of leaks. Move the car – or ask that it be moved – so that you can peek to see if a leak’s spot is on the ground. Take a piece of white paper and blot the spot, checking its color. A spot’s that black/brown indicates brake fluid or oil. Red is power steering or transmission fluid. A green spot is a coolant leak and a clear spot could just be condensation from the car’s AC. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Look carefully for overpainting, painting chips and/or dents. Also look for rust. Rust and many dents often don’t affect at all how well a car runs. It’s entirely up to you if this type of cosmetic issus is a deal breaker. If the rust/dent was relatively hidden, you can use it as a negotiating chip (offer less money).

If there’s a dent in the car’s body panel, check for door alignment. Again, this could be mostly cosmetic  (so long as the door closes almost exactly as it should). Check for problems with door seals.

Even if a car looks perfect, never take the seller’s word on its condition. If you have mechanical skills, inspect the car yourself, or ask if you can take it – at your expense – to your trusted mechanic. Have your mechanic check it thoroughly and let you know its issues as well as his opinion as to its condition.

When looking for a used car, condition counts – of course! The PAACO Automotive Group inspects all used cars that come to us to make sure they’re in terrific shape for their age and mileage. We fix issues we find. We won’t sell a car on one of our lots unless it meets our exacting standards.

We have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and we intend to keep it. Visit a dealership near you soon!

Image courtesy of naypong/

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