What To Look For When Buying A Used Car | Dick Hannah Dealerships

What To Look For When Buying A Used Car

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car in Portland or Vancouver

Those in the market for a new car would do well to at least consider buying used cars. Certified pre-owned vehicles not only save you money on the purchase price, but they also yield lower insurance payments, help you avoid depreciation, and allow you to drive away in a nicer car than you may have otherwise been able to afford.

When looking around at your options, consider a vehicle at least two years old. At this point, the vehicle has already experienced significant depreciation, which saves you from owing more on the car than it’s worth down the line.

In addition to the age of the car, there are other important things to look for that will help you in selecting a vehicle. Buying a used car from a private seller is often associated with more risk as the buyer has little recourse in the event the vehicle is not represented as advertised. This article will serve as a checklist for what to look for when buying a used car to minimize risks.

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Vehicle Value and History Check

Some sellers will list their car for more than it’s actually worth, but you’ll never know if that’s the case without checking the vehicle value yourself. Kelley Blue Book is the ultimate source for determining a fair price based on the vehicle’s age, mileage, features, current condition, and other factors. These values are adjusted to local conditions.  An example of this is an all-wheel-drive vehicle that may have a higher Kelly Blue Book value in the Portland area compared to areas of the country in the south such as Southern California.

Before buying a car from a private seller or a dealer, you should also invest in a vehicle history report, which will tell you if the car has been in any accidents and overview other aspects of its ownership including mileage and title status. All you need in order to obtain a history report is the VIN or the license plate. CARFAX and AutoCheck are excellent places to get these reports.


Interior and Exterior

Even if you aren’t auto-savvy, it is easy to at least look for certain functional and aesthetic defects in the vehicle’s appearance. Many car shoppers opt to have a specialist at a franchise car dealership do a pre-purchase vehicle review to list any needed mechanical repairs and even check for potential frame damage from an accident.

cars lined up


The first thing you’ll notice when getting into a car is the smell and the upholstery. If the current owner is a smoker, keep in mind that the smell of cigarettes is very difficult to remove from the fabric on the floors, ceilings, and seats. Check the condition of the upholstery as well to make sure there aren’t any unsightly tears or stains that would be costly to fix.

While examining the interior, flip on the heating and air conditioning system to make sure they both work. Test out the sound system and bring what you’d need to try out the CD player, MP3 connection, or Bluetooth player. If there are automatic windows or a sunroof, make sure they go up and down and don’t have any leaks. Stains near the sunroof are giveaway signs that there’s a leak somewhere in the seal, and that there could be expensive water damage hidden out of sight.



Consumer Reports urges prospective used car buyers to be very vigilant when looking over a car they intend to buy. Be sure to give the vehicle more than just a cursory glance so you don’t miss any deal-breaking defects.

check tire treadWalk around the car and examine the body carefully, looking for dents, scratches, or rust. Look out for pockets and cracks in the glass, which are expensive to fix, as well as the lights and reflectors. Take a good hard look at the tires, making sure they have even tread wear (which means they’ve been rotated regularly) and at least 1/16 inch tread depth. Be wary of extreme wear on the outside shoulder of the front tires, as this is indicative of aggressive driving and could mean that other parts of the car are also worn. You can check that the suspension is in good condition by pushing down on each corner of the car and making sure it only rebounds once.

Rust may also be a concern especially if the vehicle has spent time outside the Pacific Northwest. Check the wheel well under the trunk carpet and lining, which is where water will end up if the rear window is leaking. Also check the lower regions of wheel wells, quarter panels and doors for rust, which will require fixing.



mileage carJust because a car is relatively new in years and is being sold for a low price doesn’t make it a good deal. Watch out for new cars with high miles, as these vehicles have undergone extreme wear in a very short period of time. Generally, you should look for a car that has no more than 12,000 miles in each year of ownership. Check to ensure that maintenance has been performed at every milestone.

If the car appears old and worn but has suspiciously few miles, be very wary. In some cases, it is possible for vehicle owners to tamper with the odometer in order to sell their car for more than it’s actually worth, which is referred to as “clocking.”


Mechanical Inspection

Mechanical inspections are even more important with private vehicle sales. These diagnostic inspections are available at many auto service businesses including franchise auto dealerships and they typically cost about $100.

The mechanic’s report will outline all of the issues as well as how much you’d need to pay to have them repaired. If the mechanic finds something wrong with the vehicle, you can walk away or use the defect to negotiate the purchase price. You can visit carcare.org to find a reliable mechanic for this inspection.checking oil


Test Drive

Even if the mechanical inspection doesn’t show that the car has any problems, always take a test drive for at least 30 minutes. Drive the car at different speeds to see how well the transmission switches through the various speeds. Pay attention to how the car feels, noting the brakes and steering especially. Listen for strange clunking, whirring, or screeching noises and make sure that none of the dash lights turn on while you drive.

For more information on finding a reliable used car at a fair price, contact Dick Hannah Dealerships today.

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