What to Look for When Buying a Used Car?

  • Jan 18th, 2021
  • 7 min read

It is so simple to get a used car these days since it is not much more than just a process of a money transfer and few signatures away. However, the used cars market is full of dangers and risks that are not worth taking.

To avoid most of the bad outcomes it is always recommended to visit a car workshop for precise inspection of the vehicle you’re about to purchase. But what areas should be looked at before that? Sometimes it is not even necessary to visit a specialist - there may be clear sights to skip the deal.

Here are the top 10 most popular issues with used cars:

Bad engine work

For the engine to run smoothly, a perfect mixture of fuel and air has to be ignited in the combustion chamber. When fuel or air flow systems go wrong this may result in the engine hesitating, shaking and rattling.

Check for any loose cables and unplugged connectors in the engine bay. Fuel leaks may also be the signal for the problem. Sometimes people forget to change the spark plugs so make sure you do that when you buy a used car.

Brake problems

Sometimes a car can start shaking when the brake pedal is pressed. It is not safe to continue driving such a car and this problem should be fixed immediately. However, it can only be exposed upon a test drive so firstly make sure to do that.

Car shaking during braking can be caused by faulty brake discs. Usually, it happens when a car hits a rain puddle right after heavy braking. Overheated discs may deform on a sudden change of temperatures.

Corrosion

This is a problem for most of the used cars. Corrosion usually strikes after as little as 3 years of ownership. Or even less, if the maintenance was poor. Some cars have their body parts covered in zinc or even made out of aluminium to prevent that. But the majority of cars can rust severely.

It is worthy not only to look around a car you want to buy but also to lift it and inspect the underbody. Heavy corrosion is an expensive problem to fix since it requires taking the car apart, grinding, welding, painting and taking it all together again. Rust usually affects cars that are used in regions close to the seawater or in countries where snow is being taken care of by applying salt on the roads. If possible, avoid rusty vehicles or pay a significantly lower price for one.

Clocked odometer

Mileage is an important parameter when it comes to the selection of a used car. It can be called as an index of general wear and tear of each car. However, it is quite common to clock the odometer to make the car seem like a great bargain. Buyers should be extra cautious of that.

To ensure that the mileage is real, make sure to get the Premium CheckCarDNA history report. Every car is checked for any sights of mileage frauds. It is the only way to avoid cars with odometer rollbacks. Such vehicles have their maintenance schedules corrupted and may be difficult to maintain as well as resell in the future.

Car shakes when the clutch is released

Cars with manual gearbox may have had a difficult life if the owner was an inexperienced driver. Operating the clutch is similar to an act of balance. If the clutch was abused it may cause significant vibration, especially when it comes to taking off from the standstill.

Vibration during the car take off from the standstill most likely comes from the overheated clutch disc. Replacing the clutch may be a costly process on most of the car since it requires to take the transmission apart. So make sure you perform several take-offs during your test drive.

Uneven tyre wear

During the inspection of the car make sure to pay attention to all four tyres. Look for uneven wear of the thread. It may reveal some secrets about the car and can result in thousands spent on unscheduled maintenance.

The uneven tyre wear may be caused by bad wheel alignment. However, in some cases, wheel alignment is off by a much bigger margin and that can be the result of poor repairs after big accidents. Pictures in the CheckCarDNA report usually reveal how badly the car was damaged during its previous ownership.

Different colours and gaps

If you spot different colour shades or imperfect gaps between body panels it may be a clear sign to look for another car. Cheap body repairs are one of the things to avoid when it comes to buying a trouble-free car.

Make sure the whole car is symmetrical. It also works for the interior, too. Check if there are no strange assembly mistakes both outside and inside of the car. Some misaligned gaps may be easily corrected, but in some cases, it is close to impossible to fix it.

Shaking steering wheel

This is one of the most common problems for used cars. It can lead to very simple solutions, but sometimes it shows clear sights of poor maintenance history. In most cases, the shake of the steering wheel depends on the speed of the car (or the speed of rotation of front wheels).

To fix the shaking steering wheel it is necessary to visit a tyre shop and ask to balance the wheels of the car. Usually, that is enough to solve the problem. Sometimes it leads to changing the tyres or wheels if the shaking is caused by their damaged form.

Suspension rattle

During the test drive make sure to go for an imperfect road to feel how the suspension components work. Don’t be afraid if you hear light noise since some vehicles have poor sound insulation.

However, more audible suspension noise can be caused by loose connecting rods of lower anti-roll bars. In a not-so-lucky event, the suspensions’ bushings might be worn out. It usually is more expensive to replace these since it requires more specialist hours in the workshop.

Leaking fluids

Fluids and liquids leaks are your concern when buying a used car. To make sure seals and sealants are in good condition make sure to visit the seller and ask him to not move the car around. Upon arrival, check the floor under the engine bay and rear end of the car for any leaks as well as perform the cold start of the engine.

Some leaking spots can be quickly fixed, but leaking fuel or oil may be financial trouble. The car can also fail to pass the technical inspection, causing owners to look for inconvenient alternative transportation solutions.


Every used car has a unique history. Make sure to perform a thorough inspection of your arrival to see the car. Ask your friends who are more into cars to go with you or bring the car you want to buy to a workshop for a closer look at important parts.

Getting a wrong car is easy – make sure you do everything to avoid one. Order a CheckCarDNA history report. It may save you thousands or either build trust in the seller and confidence in the car.