How to Buy a Used Car with Confidence

A couple purchases a used car.

Shopping for a new car is an exciting time, whether you’re a first-time car buyer or an experienced one. With some new vehicles costing upwards of $35,000, many buyers choose to take out an auto loan or make monthly payments to purchase a new car. However, a certified pre-owned used car, truck, or SUV can also be a viable option if you’re looking for the right vehicle at the best price.

There are many makes and models out there, so it’s worth narrowing down your options before you start shopping around. To help, we’ve put together a list of the top things you should know so you can learn how to buy a used car with confidence.

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What Resources Can Help Me Find a Used Car With Confidence?

While purchasing a used car, truck, or SUV can help you find the best price compared to a new car, there are still many aspects you need to consider before deciding which is the right car for you. You’ll want a safe and reliable vehicle while also meeting your needs regarding size, fuel economy, additional features, color, etc. 

Using available resources such as consumer reports, Kelly Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds, or Carfax can also help you during the car buying process. A vehicle history report is also crucial to consider when searching for a used car, as a vehicle that has had extensive repairs or other serious issues may indicate future issues and costly repairs. 

Avoid unexpected breakdowns and expensive repair bills with the help of a vehicle protection plan like EnduranceAdvantage™. Providing the most comprehensive coverage available on the market today, each level of EnduranceAdvantage also provides up to $3,500 in regular maintenance coverage. This will help you to stay on top of any essential and preventative maintenance your new or used car may need.

What to Look for When Buying Used Cars

While reports and other records can be an obvious sign to stay clear of a used vehicle, there are other potential warning signs that many prospective car buyers may not be aware of. Being able to identify even the smallest indication of current or potential issues can not only help ensure you’re buying a used car with confidence, but it can also help you avoid costly repairs and breakdowns that your auto insurance won’t cover.

Some signs you should be aware of are:

Rust

A vehicle that hasn’t been kept up-to-date with essential maintenance will begin to show obvious signs of wear. Rust specifically can indicate that the vehicle has been neglected, as it is usually a sign of infrequent car washes. This can occur when a vehicle is exposed to excess moisture or heavily salted roads, like during the winter months. Prolonged exposure without washing away the rust-causing contaminants and chemicals will cause metal parts of your vehicle, such as in the engine (like bolts), to corrode over time, potentially leading to more severe problems or repairs with your vehicle. 

Take the time to walk around the vehicle’s exterior, such as before or after a test drive, and inspect for any signs of rust. This should include door panels, brake pads, and both the front and rear bumpers. Make a note of any areas you see showing obvious signs of rust before inspecting under the hood and checking key areas such as the engine and transmission.

Leaking Fluid

Another sign of trouble with the engine is leaking fluid from any location on or near the vehicle, including engine oil or coolant. This could indicate holes in gaskets, seals, and hoses throughout the engine compartment, leading to overheating problems, poor performance, and even transmission failure if not repaired.

With the EnduranceAdvantage Preferred vehicle protection plan, you can rest easy knowing your vehicle is covered from unexpected and expensive repairs. With both seals and gaskets included, the Preferred plan is the ideal protection plan for those looking for near-complete coverage on vehicles 10 years old or newer with up to 150,000 miles.

Noise from Engine

While visually seeing signs of rust or wear can indicate possible problems, certain noises can also be a warning sign to look out for. Be sure to listen for odd noises when you’re driving a used car that interests you. For example, check if the engine makes strange sounds, such as banging or grinding noises, or if it seems excessively loud. This could indicate trouble with mechanical parts inside, like pistons and bearings.

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Mismatched Panels

Suppose the vehicle has mismatched panels or looks to be different shades of color. In that case, this could indicate that a previous accident was not properly repaired and may have been improperly covered up with different paint. This means you should check for damage underneath the panel that will only worsen over time without being addressed by a certified mechanic.

Check Engine Light

Another item to check before you purchase a used car is the Check Engine Light. This light illuminates on the dashboard as soon as there’s an issue with one or more engine systems that could cause poor performance, lower fuel economy and even damage other components if left unrepaired. 

If this light comes on when you’re driving, it’s essential to have your car checked by a licensed repair facility or certified mechanic to see what’s wrong. Certain repairs, such as those involving your vehicle’s emissions, can actually void your warranty if they are done by anyone other than a certified repair professional.

Unusually High Mileage

Typically, a car will get around 150,000 miles of use during its lifetime while averaging around 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year. With that in mind, a used 2016 Jeep Wrangler, Ford F-150, or Nissan Altima should ideally have around 50,000 to 75,000 miles. If that number is much higher, this could indicate trouble with wear and tear parts like suspension components which will cost more to replace when they go wrong. 

However, with a protection plan in place like the EnduranceAdvantage Prime plan’s unlimited odometer mileage upon initiation, you can have peace of mind that your used vehicle will be covered no matter how many miles it has. Additionally, each Endurance protection plan also comes with 1 free year of Elite Benefits for even more savings on services like 24/7 roadside assistance and up to $1,000 towards a replacement vehicle if yours is ever deemed a total loss.

Sold with “No Inspection Allowed”

If you see these terms in the sales contract, this could signify that the dealer doesn’t have faith in their product or doesn’t want to disclose any potential problems. If you’re not buying from a car dealership, be sure to look over all of the paperwork before signing it since both parties are responsible for what’s written in the contract. If there is anything listed that makes you uncomfortable or seems unreasonable, don’t sign until you have it reviewed by an attorney who specializes in contracts and sales agreements.

Protect Your New or Used Car with Endurance

Whether you’re buying a used car or a brand new vehicle, protect it and your wallet with a vehicle protection plan like EnduranceAdvantage Prime. Offering extensive component coverage for vehicles up to 20 years old and with unlimited odometer mileage at the start of your plan, you can have peace of mind knowing your vehicle is covered from any unexpected and costly repairs outside of your insurance coverage.

Each EnduranceAdvantage plan also comes with up to $3,5000 towards regular maintenance, so services such as oil and filter changes, tire rotations, PSI checks, and more are all covered at no additional cost to you along with other special, one-time services. Endurance customers will also receive 1 year of FREE Elite Benefits for additional perks and savings, such as key fob replacements, tire repairs, and more.

Request a free, no-obligation quote to learn more about each level of EnduranceAdvantage or any Endurance protection plan. You can also visit our Learning Center for more informative articles on various topics such as DIY maintenance tips, answers to FAQs, make/model comparisons, and more.

A Vehicle Service Contract (VSC) is often referred to as an “auto warranty” or an “extended car warranty,” but it is not a warranty. A VSC does, however, provide repair coverage for your vehicle after the manufacturer’s car warranty expires. A VSC is a contract between you and a VSC provider or administrator that states what is a covered repair and what is not. Not all vehicles qualify for coverage; Endurance does not offer VSCs in California.