10 Things to Do Before Buying a Used Vehicle from a Private Seller


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So, you’ve decided to take the route of a used vehicle, getting you on the road without the major investment of a new car. While this is only one of the many benefits of purchasing a pre-loved vehicle, there are definitely some things to check out before you buy. Today we’ll go over some things to be mindful of when giving your potential new-to-you vehicle a look over. 


1. Vehicle History

The first thing you’ll want to check out is the history of the vehicle. You’ll get as much information from the current owner/seller as you’re able to, but you should then continue with some research on your own. An important thing to include in your search should be running the VIN (Vehicle Insurance Number) through a paid service such as CARFAX which will tell you if the car has been in an accident, if there are any liens on it, and/or if there are any recalls on the model. Some dealers, like ReCar, have their Carfax reports listed online to ensure vehicle history transparency for customers. This, of course, is a benefit of purchasing from a used car dealer. So, you’ll definitely want to locate this information when buying from a private seller.

2. Rust or Paint Damage

Obviously, when buying a pre-loved vehicle, some mild rusting or paint damage may not be a huge surprise, nor a dealbreaker, but you should certainly take a walk around the vehicle and observe any rust you may spot. Small, localized rust patches can be fixed relatively easily, but if you find a spot where the metal is completely rusted through, you may want to reconsider your purchase.

3. Under the Hood

We all know the engine is the most important part of any vehicle. While the car is turned off, pop the hood and inspect the engine. Watch out for fluid leaks, corrosion and cracked hoses and belts. While you’re there, check the oil and transmission dipsticks for discolouration. Oil should be light brown and transmission fluid should be pink or red.

4. Tire Condition

You should check out the tire treads and make sure they are all worn evenly and that all four match. Uneven tread or mis-matching wear on certain tires often means poor alignment, which can be caused by steering, suspension or frame issues. A poorly aligned vehicle will pull to either the right or left while driving.

5. Frame Issues

While you’re doing your walk-around, you should look for problems with the frame. Take a look and see if the vehicle is sitting level on the ground. Check underneath and make sure there’s nothing hanging from the undercarriage. You’ll want to pay attention to the bumpers and look inside the trunk and hood for any new or loose bolts, as well as any warping that could indicate a recent accident.

6. Mileage

The average car will rack up around 20,000km a year. If you’re struggling to tell if your potential vehicle has high mileage, you can divide the number on the vehicle’s odometer by its age. This step is important as a car with higher mileage can easily have more wear and tear on its mechanical components.

7. Interior Electronics

Summer drives with your favourite music and a cool AC are a must. So, you’ll definitely want to play around with some buttons inside the vehicle. Turn the radio up, turn the AC/heater on and make sure everything is working up to par.

8. Upholstery

Upholstery is rarely a cheap thing to replace or repair. While you’re inside the vehicle, take a look at the seats and watch out for any stains, tears, burns, cracked leather, etc., on all front and back seats.

9. Test Drive

If you’re satisfied with your personal inspection of the vehicle up to this point, it’s time to take a test drive. You’ll want to plan out a route that will thoroughly test the car’s maneuverability, acceleration, breaking and suspension. If you’re able to, take it on the highway and somewhere to try and parallel park with it to expose any blindspots the vehicle may have.

10. Mechanic Inspection

If you’re now at the point where you’re just about ready to call the pre-loved vehicle yours, it’s time to take it to a trusted mechanic for an inspection. It’s not a free service, but a mechanic can determine if the car may have any underlying issues or spots that may become troublesome in future, which will save you down the line.

11. (BONUS STEP), Make the Purchase!

Congratulations! You’ve successfully purchased yourself a new-to-you vehicle that you may now enjoy with the freedom that comes with it! AND did you know that buying a pre-loved vehicle is better for the environment than buying new as no new resources are needed to build a new one and/or dispose of the one you’ve just saved? 


If you’re new to used vehicle shopping, would appreciate reliable and informative assistance, and/or would like a 100% worry and stress-free experience, feel free to check out ReCar’s wide variety of pre-loved vehicles waiting for you! ReCar offers a 360° Quality Guarantee:

“A better price should never mean lower quality! We do a 360° Mechanical and Cosmetic Inspection that all ReCar Certified vehicles must pass in order to be made available to you.”

If you would like to check out ReCar’s pre-loved vehicle inventory, you can do so here!