10 Red Flags for Used Car Buyers

Ever More Red Flags for Used Car Buyers

If the price of your potential ride is too low, there's probably something fishy going on.
If the price of your potential ride is too low, there's probably something fishy going on.
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3: A Very Low Price

You're probably wondering how a low price can be a red flag. A low price is a killer deal right?! While maybe, once in a blue moon, someone finds a high-quality used car with no issues at an absurdly low price, the odds of that happening are pretty gosh darn low.

More often than not, a super low price on a used car indicates that the seller wants to unload it quickly and is hoping that the vision of the dollars you'll be thinking about saving are enough to blind you to the other issues the car has. Unless you're willing to invest your savings on repairs — possibly costly ones — on the new-to-you car, stay away from used cars with prices that are much lower than similar models.

2: A Bad Title or No Title

When it comes to cars, possession isn't nine-tenths of the law. You need a car's title to prove you own it and are legally able to sell it. If you're working with a used seller who doesn't have a title for the car you want to buy, stay away. Also beware of fake or improper titles. A car title is an official document issued by the state the car is owned in. It should have a state seal and other anti-counterfeit measures on it. When inspecting the title, make sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on it matches the VIN on the car, and that the name on the title matches the name on the seller. If you buy a car with a bad title, it could turn out that you're not the rightful owner of the car — which means you just threw your money away.

1: Outstanding Recalls

Being described as "outstanding" is usually a good thing, but not when it comes to automotive recalls. Automotive recalls are issued by the car's automaker (sometimes after an order from the federal government) when something is wrong with the car. Many recalls are issued because of defects that could compromise the car's safety. Fixing recalls is done at the automaker's expense, so someone who hasn't had a recall on the car taken care of may have neglected other maintenance issues. To find out if a car has outstanding recalls, you can enter its VIN at safercar.gov. From there, you'll be able to see what recalls the car was subject to. The seller should then provide proof that the recalls were taken care of.

Author's Note: 10 Red Flags for Used Car Buyers

I've bought new cars and I've bought used cars, and though buying used is almost always the smarter financial decision, I still prefer to buy new. When you buy new you don't have to watch out for most of the red flags in this list. Still, now that I've research the red flags, I feel more confident in buying a used car because I'll know what to watch out for. I hope you feel more confident buying a used car, too.

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  • DeAngelis, Lauren. "5 Used Car Red Flags." U.S. News & World Report. October 15, 2009. (June 22, 2015) http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/5-Used-Car-Red-Flags/
  • Intellichoice. "Red Flag Guide on Buying a Used Car." Intellichoice. (June 22, 2015). http://www.intellichoice.com/6-3-1353-1405/advice/used-cars/red-flag-guide-on-buying-a-used-car-part-2-of-2.html
  • Lang, Steven. "Hammer Time: Carfax, Red Flags, And Rolling Turds. The Truth About Cars. May 3, 2013. (June 22, 2015). http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/hammer-time-carfax-red-flags-and-rolling-turds/
  • Torbjornsen, Tom. "Top Five Red Flags of Used Car Buying". Autoblog. May 17, 2010. (June 22, 2015). http://www.autoblog.com/2010/05/17/used-cars-red-flags/


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