What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

Buying a car is an exciting time, and we here at Norm Reeves Volkswagen Superstore Irvine want to make the process as easy as possible.

To help find the right automobile for you near Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, and Newport Beach, we created this guide on what to look for when buying a used car. Read through the helpful information below, and contact us if you have any questions.

1. Vehicle History Report

Before you can even decide if a specific used car is right for you, you should take a look at its vehicle history report. This gives you detailed information about a vehicle’s history, including:

  • Number of previous owners
  • Maintenance record
  • Previous accidents and repairs, if applicable

Once you get the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can get a vehicle history report from sites like CARFAX® or AutoCheck®. This information will help determine if the car is worth pursuing.


2. Exterior

If the vehicle history report looks good, then it’s time to check the car out in person. You’ll want to do a thorough walkaround to make sure the exterior looks good. Check the body for any scratches, dents, or rust. Kneel in front of the car and look down each side for any unevenness that could indicate previous body damage.

You’ll also want to check that the paint color is uniform throughout the entire vehicle. This is why it’s especially important to inspect the car during daylight hours, on as bright a day as possible. But even if part of the car has been repainted, it should still match the rest of the exterior as closely as possible.

Additionally, you should look under the hood for any oily residue running down the side of the engine block, which would indicate a leak. And if you notice any oily spots on the ground under the car, check to see where it’s coming from.


3. Interior

After the exterior has been examined, you’ll want to take a good look at the car’s interior. One of the first things you could look at is the upholstery for any tears or stains.

While one of the main causes of vehicle damage is from an accident, it could have also endured flood damage. One good way to check is to look for any muddy or dirty residue in hard-to-reach areas like behind the pedals or under the front seats. You’ll also want to sniff around the interior and trunk for any musty, moldy, or mildew odors.

Next, get in the driver’s seat and make sure you can get comfortable. Double-check that the seat adjustments work properly. Turn the car on and see if any warning lights stay on even after starting the engine. You’ll also want to make sure that all the interior switches and buttons are easily accessible and working properly, like the radio and air conditioner.


4. Performance (Test Drive)

Once the car’s appearance checks out, it’s time to take it on a test drive. This is often the determining factor in purchasing the vehicle or not, so take your time with it and make lots of mental notes.

It’s recommended to take a test drive with A/C and radio turned off. As you’re driving, you’ll want to listen for any strange noises, like squeaking brakes or a rattling engine.

Test drive on different types of roads (winding, bumpy, etc.) to get a feel for the car’s steering and overall performance. You’ll also want to drive at different speed limits (when permitted), and test the brakes when stopping at 30 MPH vs. 60 MPH.

Pay attention if the car pulls to one side when driving. This could be indicative of uneven tire wear, and would need to be addressed after the test drive.

Wait until the test drive is over to ask your questions. This is so you can better focus on the car’s drivability. When you get back to the dealership, discuss your inquiries with the sales rep. They have lots of knowledge about various used cars, and are there to help. And with their expertise, you’ll be able to solidify your car-buying decision.

Learn More at Our Used Car Dealership

If you have any questions, or are ready to get started on finding a pre-owned car, then visit us at Norm Reeves Volkswagen Superstore Irvine today!

We’ve helped many drivers throughout Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, and Newport Beach find their ideal vehicle, and we look forward to doing the same for you.


Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car

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