Here’s What to Look For When Buying a Second Hand Car [Guide]

Car sales have gone up exponentially as of late, on account of low interest rates for car financing and lowered taxes by the government in the Auto Policy 2021-2026. Despite this, many cannot afford the luxury of a new car and opt for a used car instead. They hope to find a vehicle that provides good value for money, meaning that the vehicle has not been driven a lot and is in good condition.

The minor kinks that cars often have can be buffed out, but buyers can become victims of fraud because of numerous hidden faults. Potential buyers should take the time to inspect the vehicles thoroughly to minimize their chances of buying a white elephant.

This checklist will be helpful to people looking to buy a second-hand vehicle.

Engine Sounds

Always start the vehicle and listen carefully to the sound of the engine. Rev it a few times to check for squeals that could indicate a loose belt or a bad alternator. Also, check to see that nothing on the inside rattles or vibrates.

Smoke from the Exhaust

The vehicle should not emit black or white smoke. Black smoke means that it is burning too much fuel and gives low mileage. This could be due to a number of different reasons, like a clogged-up air filter or a malfunction in the fuel injection system.

Although it is uncommon, the vehicle should not emit white, grey, or bluish smoke either as they indicate a leaking head gasket, an oil leak, leaking valve seals, or damaged piston rings. All these will require the owner to get the car thoroughly serviced by a mechanic.

Clues of Accidents

Customers can be duped into buying vehicles that were in accidents. You should inspect the body of vehicles carefully to look for signs of accidents and should avoid cars that seem to be heavily damaged. Crumple zones are giveaways of repairs like welding and repainting.

You should also inspect the pillars for previous repairs.

It is a good idea to stand about 20 feet behind and in front of the vehicle and observe whether it is level or askew. A tilt means that it was involved in a major accident that may have caused it to roll over, and the repairman was not able to level it on both sides.

Paint Work

Often when a vehicle is hit on the side, the owner gets the dent buffed out and gets the panel repainted. Some owners decide to replace the panel entirely, and when they are unable to find a panel of the same color, they get it repainted.

Potential buyers should check if the paint on the panels is original and see how thick it is. Repainted panels reduce a vehicle’s value.


Corrosion on the hinges of the doors and the bonnet is a dead giveaway that the vehicle was not maintained well. Open the hood, the trunk, and the doors to look for it. If the vehicle was taken care of by the previous owner, there will be almost no sign of corrosion in these spots.


Always examine the tires and ensure that they are not more than a decade old. To determine the age of a tire, look at the DOT code embossed on the side of the tires.

Test Drive

Once you have checked off all the aforementioned concerns and your vehicle of choice seems to look good, always take it for a short drive.

While driving, notice if the vehicle is straight or if it veers to either side. Check to see if it produces smoke, and make sure nothing rattles or vibrates. If there is a problem, it will probably also show up as an error on the instrument panel.

Do not forget to scrutinize the electronics like the audio system, the interior lighting, and the headlamps and taillights. Also, do not hesitate to ask the owner when the vehicle was last serviced.

Keeping these things in mind will lower the chances of fraud, and you might just end up with a good purchase.


The first two digits in the circle are the week in which the tire was made, and the last two digits show the year. For example, the tire in this image was manufactured in the 35th week of 2007.

Also, the condition of the tires depends on how much the car has traveled, which is why you should take a good look at the treads as well. If they are almost flat, the vehicle will have poor road grip and they need to be replaced to avoid potentially fatal accidents.

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