While buying a used car comes with many dos and don’ts, budget-savvy drivers can still avoid buying a lemon. New cars are not a viable option for most people and buying a used car is the smart alternative in the rising economy.

Of course, a used car also comes with many complications from previous use, wear, and tear so it is critical to avoid making mistakes.

With careful consideration and having the car inspected by a professional mechanic, you can get the best-used car and save money. Here are some critical factors to consider as you shop for a used car:


It is important to set a budget as most buyers suffer regretful expenditures. Set a budget and strictly follow it to narrow down your options. When presented with many options, most buyers ignore logic and make decisions based on what appeals to emotion.

Having a budget also helps you avoid choosing unnecessary add-ons.

Vehicle History

Most used cars are polished to look spotless and shiny. However, despite having an almost brand-new appearance, there might be hidden problems lurking beneath the hood. A visual inspection alone will not reveal any electrical or mechanical problems in the car.

Ask for a detailed history report or visit CARFAX to get a detailed report. This includes information about the car’s previous owners and services records as well as prior damage. If a car has been previously owned, you want to have information about any accidents that might affect upkeep costs.

Pre-Purchase Inspection

It goes without saying that you should never drive off the lot with a used car that has not been inspected. Before buying a used car, consider engaging a professional mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection.

A pre-purchase inspection saves you from buying a lemon and it also exposes any problems that can help you get a better bargain. A pre-purchase inspection is typically inexpensive and does not take much time. However, it can save you a lot of time and money in future repairs.

Consider Getting a Certified Pre-Owned Car

While most used cars do not come with a warranty, a certified pre-owned car comes with a manufacturer’s warranty. Manufacturer CPO cars offer affordability and reliability as you can trust the warranty to save you money on any future repairs.

In addition, most certified pre-owned cars must meet high standards before they can be listed for sale. They are low-mileage cars with no history of collision and undergo comprehensive inspection routines to ensure that they are fit for use.

As an added advantage, CPOs also come with extras such as roadside assistance. While CPOs cost more than used cars, they also come with manufacturer-certified programs for special financing deals.

Car Reputation

This should be among the first steps to take once you find a used car that you think is right for your needs. Research the car’s make, model, and reputation. This allows you to find out what previous owners have experienced and any problems you are likely to face in the future.

All used vehicles will have some problems, researching the car’s reputation allows you to decide whether or not you can keep up with its maintenance. It is also a great way to learn about the experiences of other drivers with the same car.

It is also critical to consider the dealership’s reputation rather than choosing a private seller. A good dealership wants to sell many cars, so it is important for them that buyers have a satisfactory experience and leave positive reviews.


As previously discussed, most used cars do not come with a warranty. However, if you are buying a used car from a dealership, you might have the benefit of getting a warranty. This covers a certain amount of time within which the dealership will cover repair costs.

When buying a used car, a warranty is one of the most critical parts of the deal. Find out what the warranty covers including the number of miles. If you decide to buy a used car, always choose a dealership that offers a warranty to help you save money on any costly repairs and replacements in the future.


Once you have decided to buy a used car, consider shopping for the best insurance policy before you close the deal. Buying insurance after you have bought the car could cost you in terms of hefty premiums as you are in a hurry to get your car on the road.

Buying insurance before you close the deal on a used car also allows you to shop around and get several quotes so you can settle for the most pocket-friendly option. It also allows you to compare expected costs for different cars and helps you narrow down the choices.

Car Title and Ownership

If the car is not on loan or lien, you should get the car title immediately upon closing the deal. If you are buying a used car from a private seller, confirm that they are the true owner and check that their identification matches the title.


Whether you are buying a used car from a dealership or a private seller, you must have a payment plan ahead of time.

Most people do not have enough cash to pay upfront for a new car, even if it is a used one, so financing is another critical factor to consider.

There are several financing options including the dealership and private lending agencies. Dealership financing often comes with extra costs, so it is important to shop around to get the best rates.

Ensure you are approved for financing before shopping for a used car. Remember, financing rates are generally higher for used cars than new cars because in case of repossession they have better resale value.

Used Car Checklist

Once you have settled on buying a used car, aside from the above factors, there are also critical physical features to check. These include:

  • Engine: Check for any leaks, the condition of the head gasket, oil level, and exhaust smoke.
  • Gearbox and clutch:Test for any difficulties in gear change and clutch biting points.
  • Bodywork: Use a torch to check the bodywork including underneath the car.
  • Interior: Check the dash, boot, and electronics.
  • Wheels and tires:Check the tread, condition of the rubber, and make of each tire.
  • Test drive:Drive the car for as long as you need to confirm that it is in good condition.
  • Documents: Check the vehicle service history and ownership documents.


While buying a used car can be more of a hassle, it helps many drivers save money. With these tips, you should be able to avoid buying a lemon and get more bang for your buck.