Red Flags to Look For When Buying Used Cars

 March 28, 2019  10:31 AM

Don’t get your pockets picked and your savings drained buying a lemon. There are a great many things to keep your eyes open for, some are obvious and others aren’t. Here’s The Mac James Family’s Red Flag Checklist to buying a used vehicle.


1. Blatant Price Gouging
Many dealers expect buyers to talk down any asking price yet often it’s just a greatly raised price to pad the dealer’s bottom line. Next time, take a look at any of the other extra charges involved. Try to notice acronyms like
‘MVA’ or ‘ADM’. They stand for Market Value Adjustment and Adjusted Dealer Markup respectively. Easily the most barefaced ripoffs. Another great bit to look for is often referred to as ‘Prep Fees.’ Find out what they are all for and negotiate them out of the retail price of the car. A dealer who can’t tell you is probably hiding something.

2. Outstanding recalls
Every year goes by and we hear about some dangerous defect on a model that slipped by some vehicle manufacturer’s research and development team. Millions of cars are recalled every year to avoid the possibility of incident and injury but not everyone hears the news. Sometimes a model slips through some more cracks and ends up on a used dealership lot. Get the VIN for the vehicle and cross reference it to the government’s database at to make sure there are no otherwise ‘well-known’ issues, at which point the seller should provide you with proof that recall defects were taken care of.


3. Questionable Vehicle History
A used car is just that: used. Sometimes multiple owners have driven the vehicle before it makes its way to your viewing. Past owners may not be so open about any hidden damages and mechanical problems with the vehicle. You can get an official history of the vehicle with services like Carfax. It covers any information about the vehicle that has been claimed with insurance providers.


4. The Hoops in the Finance Department
Getting your own financing is not a hard feat and is
often preferable when it comes to purchasing a vehicle– new or used. If you don’t fully understand all the financial jargon being thrown at you from the finance department, it becomes easy to get lost and taken advantage of. Try to understand the details of your term options and the corresponding percentages. Plus there are a ton of options that they try to sell you and tack it right on to your term. Most of the extras are viable but can be done much less expensively after-market. You can check out our blog about financing a vehicle on our site.


5. Mismatched Paint and Lesser Obvious Defects
Mismatched paint or things like visible rust and obvious dings and defects are surefire way to tell that the car has been in an accident and/or hasn’t been thoroughly attended to by the service department. Why not replace things like a cracked side view mirror or buff out another cars paint from the bumper?
Different colours on the car usually mean there was an accident of a higher severity and the new body panel could be hiding more severe damage. Same goes for the carpets. Notice different colours and branding on your floors. Is there a funky smell? Possibly be from flood damage and there could be numerous things wrong with all the mechanisms and systems. Getting an outside inspection is crucial.


6. A Really Low Price
Unless you are looking for a specific frame or parts for a project vehicle, an offer too good to refuse is a lemon in peach’s clothing.
Selling a car for far less than it’s worth means something is terribly wrong with it and it’s too expensive or too much of a hassle for the seller to fix. You may end up spending way too much money on repairs in the short term.


7. Obsessive/Anti-inspection Seller.
Someone who is controlling every part of the car you can and cannot see is usually hiding something. When they get really upset with how you are test driving the car–
which should be to semi-aggressively test the limits–often means you are about to reveal hidden defects under the hood. We said earlier that getting an outside inspection is crucial. A seller or a dealer preventing and insisting against outside inspection is probably trying to take advantage of you.



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