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Buying a Used Car: Red Flags to Consider – Video

Buying a used car is a great way to save money, but if you don’t do your research, you could get stuck with a car that has expensive issues or other problems. Our latest video helps you spot some red flags to consider when you’re buying a used vehicle.

One situation that should cause you to walk away from virtually any car purchase is if the VIN (or vehicle identification number) on the title doesn’t match the number on the vehicle itself. You’ll find the VIN at the base of the windshield on the driver’s side or in the doorjamb. If it doesn’t match the VIN listed on the title or the vehicle-history report, you may have discovered a seller trying to commit fraud.

Another idea: If you can, check where the vehicle has been parked recently. If you see oil stains, then the car could be leaking oil, and that’s usually a telltale sign of a major issue. For that reason, we typically recommend paying for a thorough mechanical inspection on any vehicle you’re considering before you sign the papers.

Additionally, check the car’s interior for odd odors. If the interior of the car you’re considering smells funny, it could mean a problem somewhere. A smoky smell means the previous owner was a smoker, for instance, while a sour or moldy smell could indicate that the car has been in a flood.

We also highly recommend springing for a verified vehicle-history report from AutoCheck or Carfax before buying any vehicle. These reports can indicate how many previous owners a car has had, whether it’s had an accident in the past, and whether there are any odometer discrepancies. These reports don’t catch everything, but getting one for a potential purchase is certainly better than flying blind without one.

Another tip: You can’t lawfully buy a car from someone who doesn’t own it, so if you’re buying from a private seller, make sure the ownership history isn’t murky. Check the title, and be sure to find out the answer to any questions about the vehicle’s ownership before any money changes hands.

Steering clear of these red flags should keep you from making a costly mistake when it comes to buying a used car.


Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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