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November 26, 2015

What You REALLY Should Look for in a Used Car

When you think about purchasing a used car, what do you think of? Do you think of buying a sports car to impress your girlfriend? Or do you want to buy a car because it’s blue (it matches your little girl’s eyes)? How about buying a car with leather seats? Your boss would be pretty impressed wouldn’t he?

But are these things truly necessary? We argue, no, they are not.

So what should you really look for when shopping for a used car? Take a look at our list below.

  1. If purchasing from a used-car dealer, read the Buyer’s Guide on the car’s window.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requires that used car dealerships post this guide on every car the dealership has for sale. The guide needs to have information such as if the car is being sold “as is,” or if it has a warranty (and what the warranty includes and how long it lasts and how large a percentage (if any) of repair costs the dealer is required to pay).

If the car is being sold “as is,” the dealer isn’t offering any warranty and you are responsible for any issues that come up after you buy the car.

  1. While you shouldn’t look – necessarily – for leather seats, the interior should be in good condition.

Is the upholstery in good shape or is it torn and worn? This could be a simple sign of the car’s age (five years or older), but any car younger than five years should have an interior that’s in fairly good shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect – seat covers can take care of a seat’s worn upholstery and a leather wheel cover can hide and protect warn vinyl on the steering wheel.

Also check the car’s engine because an engine with dirty and rusty parts could be an indication that the engine hasn’t been cared for properly.

  1. Take a close look at all windows and especially the windshield for cracks, chips or “pockmarks.”

A small pockmark or chip may not be worrisome (and you could use it to negotiate a lower price for the car). But a crack in a window – particularly the windshield – will get worse and could end up costing you big time.

  1. Turn the car’s lights on.

You’ll want to be sure they all work, including the brake lights. Check that the lights and reflectors aren’t cracked, haven’t been fogged up with moisture, or are even missing.

  1. Also turn on the car’s ignition, but don’t turn over the engine.

This allows you to see if all of the dashboard’s lights turn on for a few moments and then turn off (the “check engine” light, for example). Then turn the engine “over.” Is it hard to start? How does the engine idle, rough or smooth?

  1. Check the car’s suspension.

Walk around the car and bounce each corner once. If the suspension is in good shape, the car should rebound just once and shouldn’t bounce a few times before settling.

Bottom line: the things you really should look for in a used car are less cosmetic and more functional. Cosmetics are superficial; the car’s functionality is critical.

PAACO offers used cars that are reliable and affordable. We provide our buyers with a limited six-month or 6,000 miles warranty and we look at our salespeople more as finance experts than car salesmen.

Visit a PAACO dealership near you or give us a call at 877-810-4555 for more information.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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