quality used car

Buy a Quality Used Car: Red Flags to Look Out For

We want you to find a quality used car that will last for years to come. Buying a used car is like a game that is hard to play and even harder to win. It can turn into a numbers game that we all grow tired of playing— you just have to get through the clunkers before you find the car that is right for you. Read on for some of the most common ways used car dealers and sellers take advantage of consumers. 

Pay Attention to the Window Sticker at Dealerships

Confusing details are often featured on used car window stickers. Here are some acronyms to look out for. Don’t be afraid to ask the dealer the hard questions! You have the right to know exactly where your money is going. 

MVA: Market Value Adjustment

MVA’s are placed on vehicles that a car enthusiast would love to collect, usually one that is newly launched or limited-edition. In scenarios like this, a market value adjustment makes sense, especially if the car is one of the only models in the area.

However, MVA stickers are occasionally found on average, everyday cars that are not overly popular or in-demand. In cases like these, it may be an unfair markup. In other words, the dealer is just trying to make more money and improve their bottom line. This can be a huge red flag and sign to move on, especially if you know what the car is actually worth. 

ADM: Adjusted Dealer Markup

An ADM is exactly what it sounds like: the dealer adjusts and marks up the price of the car. In rare cases, an ADM charge is justified based on aftermarket purchases. Some examples of ADM’s are: vehicle prep, delivery fees, dealer prep, premium paint color, extended warranties, high-end stereo systems, tinted windows, and so on.

Before paying this charge, be sure to find out exactly what this payment is for. More often than not, it’s just the dealer wanting to make a little extra spending money. You may be able to negotiate these fees down, just be prepared for pushback!

A Clean Title: The Difference Between a Quality Used Car and a Lemon

Ensuring that your car has a clean title is incredibly important and simple to do— use Carfax, an electronic database of vehicle transactions. This will allow you to double check the mileage and see exactly who the vehicle previously belonged to. 

Avoid salvaged vehicles! A salvaged vehicle is one that has been deemed a total loss by an insurer, often through collision and its corresponding damage. These cars can be lemons, aka  cars where the problems outweigh the benefits. It is wise to stay away from vehicles that have been salvaged but are back on the market with a clean title. There are quality used cars out there, and you are capable of finding one!

Read the Loan Agreement (Then Read it Again) 

If you are in business with a dealership finance manager, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions and warranty conditions (if any). 

Be wary of accepting additional products or benefits! If you purchase additional products, such as rust-proofing, paint sealant, or glass etching (the list of possibilities goes on and on), these charges may be added to your monthly payment, drastically raising what you owe. You can end up paying for any extra charges for the entirety of your loan, racking up quite an impressive amount. 

Mismatched Paint 

Mismatched exterior paint is often a bad sign when examining used vehicles, and can be significant enough to warrant walking away from the car completely. Oftentimes, a different color paint is used to cover up damage, previous repairs, or rust. The seller or dealer may be trying to hide flaws, making them a non-ideal person to work with anyways.

A Car That Is “Too Good To Be True” 

It is safe to say that finding your absolute dream car, in perfect condition, for far under market value, just isn’t feasible. Cars that are priced way too low most likely need tons of repairs, and can indicate that the owner will take a suspiciously low amount of money to get rid of it. Spoiler alert: this is never a good sign. 

We have two words for you: test drive! Always drive a car before you buy it — you’ll often notice things that are wrong with it right away, which will help justify the “steal” of a price. During the drive pay extra attention to the following: 

  • Examine the exterior of the car
    • Check out the tires. Do they match? Are they worn down?
  • Test out the interior features before driving
    • Adjust the mirrors, steering wheel, and seats
    • Try out the windshield wipers
    • Make sure the interior lighting works
    • Turn on the stereo and adjust the volume
    • Turn the A/C and heat on and off
    • Check the locks
    • Make sure all the seatbelts work
  • Any clunking, clicking, rattling, or grinding
  • How the brakes feel
  • Shakiness or unsteadiness when turning and speeding up
  • Drifting to the right or left
  • Check the lights and blinkers
  • Check Engine light or any other warning lights 

Damaged Interior 

When looking for a quality used car, watch out for unappealing and sketchy car interiors. Cracks in the seats, stains, and other signs of wear and tear are telltale signs of a car that has been through the wringer. If you see that a used car has brand new carpet, be sure to check the title. Sometimes, this can indicate unwanted water damage.

Read more on the dangers of water damage in your car here!

Thankfully, damaged interiors can be fixed pretty easily by professionals. It may be costly, but you can often negotiate the price down to cover the costs. 

Unappealing Scent

If you get in a used car and are immediately assaulted  by an unpleasant scent (such as cigarette smoke or cat urine), it could be smart to walk away. Some odors are nearly impossible to entirely banish, even with heavy shampooing and air fresheners.

If you find yourself in possession of a car that smells of smoke, check out our article on getting rid of the cigarette smell in your vehicle

If You’re Not a Car Aficionado… Find Someone Who Is

It’s perfectly okay to ask for help when buying a used car. In fact, we highly recommend doing so. Before you make a purchase, take the car to a trusted mechanic and have them thoroughly check it out for you. A mechanic will be able to spot any current issues, or problems that may pop up in the future. 

If possible, get the vehicle checked out by a mechanic before you buy! It can end up saving you an immense amount of money, and prevent you from buying a car that is sure to break down. 

Thanks for reading! We hope we helped the used car buyers out there identify key red flags when purchasing a vehicle. Call us at 480-448-1183 or visit us here for all your interior detailing needs.