No one enjoys buying a used car, but it's a fact of life you can't avoid.
A lot of factors make the process similar to pulling teeth: leg work, research, contacting strangers, used car salespersons.
It's certainly not fun, but purchasing a used car doesn't need to be overly difficult or unsafe as long as you keep a few things in mind.
Watch Out for These 6 Red Flags as You Shop for a Used Car
You already know you need to stay safe while purchasing a car – especially from people you meet over the internet.
But do you know what you need to look out for?
At what point should you walk away or cancel the sale?
Back away if you notice any of these red flags while you're shopping for a car.
1. The Seller Seems Aggressive on Social Media
Sure, no one is entirely their real "self" online, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't look for a few red flags.
If someone frequently posts aggressive status updates or gets into arguments what makes you think you won't be next?
Even if they aren't violent, they may try to scam you or treat you unfairly. Make sure they seem to interact well with other people online.
2. The Seller is Hesitant About Releasing the Car's History Report
The seller should have this prepared before you even reach out to them. They should know people buying a used car will want to see the history.
If the seller doesn't want to hand over a mechanic's report or CarFax history, that's a dead giveaway they're hiding something.
3. The History Report Doesn't Look Good
Are there any paint jobs that could indicate the car was in an accident?
Some people may ask mechanic friends to complete repairs if they don't want the accident showing up on a report. Look for paint jobs on panels and front bumpers.
Has the car had regular oil changes? Have any repairs been done more than once? How many people have owned the car?
This helps give you an idea of what you're getting into. Remember, you'll also want to sell the car one day.
4. They Have the Title, Just Not on Them
"I have the title, just not on me." If they can't give an explanation that sounds reasonable, run away fast.
This could indicate that the car is stolen or "borrowed" from a family member. Buying that car could potentially put you at risk.
At the same time, people sell cars for family members all the time. Use your judgement and ask lots of questions.
5. The Car Smells Bad or Isn't Clean
If someone can't be bothered to clean the car's interior before showing it to you, what makes you think they kept up on oil changes? Discrepancies like rust could also indicate neglect.
Watch out for bad smells too because this could indicate other potential problems with the car. Moldy, musty, or otherwise bad smells might mean the car has extensive flood damage – not good.
6. The Price is Too Good to Be True
If the price seems too good to be true, it is. No one sells a car for a less than average price. No, they aren't moving across the country and need to sell it immediately – there's something fishy going on.
A lower than average asking price could indicate a number of problems that they don't want you to ask questions about. You're less likely to care about the details if the price is good, right?
These problems could mean the car is stolen, the transmission is slipping, or there has been a factory recall they never addressed. Don't put your safety and money at risk.
Don't Ignore Your Instincts When You're Buying a Used Car
It's rare that your instincts lie.
How many times have you ignored that horrible gut feeling only to wish you hadn't?
Don't ignore your instinct when your physical safety or wallet are on the line.
As long as you keep these tips in mind and think on your feet, you can help ensure your safety and buying experience.