The Unfortunate Signs of Buying a Bad Used Car – 2020 Guide

When purchasing a car, going the route of getting a used car is a great idea – in many cases, even better than purchasing a brand new car. After all, there are so many things you will avoid – the annoying depreciation costs, fewer insurance premiums and registration fees, and you get more value for your money overall.

However, the dependability of the choices you make will depend on so many factors. Therefore, if you fail to do your homework during the selection process, or you feel pressure when making your buying decision, you can easily make the worst mistake ever – both for you and your pocket.

 There are plenty of sites that give advice on buying cars, but do all these things apply to a used car? Sites such as motorbeast will go a long way to give you some guidance, but you do not need to buy a sub-par car just because it is a used model. Here are some signs of bad used cars, to help you know what to avoid entirely.

Evidence of smoking

Here is the unfortunate reality of smoking – once someone smokes in a car, you will never get rid of the smell. It will always seep into all the upholstery and stick there forever no matter what you do. 

When you purchase a car that has been smoked in, it will also have burn marks somewhere, and you will see the window frames had some buildup of stubs or ash. In addition to that, the previous owner likely drove in all kinds of weather with the windows down or sprayed the car with all kinds of air fresheners known to humanity in order to tame the smells of cigarette smoke.

If you notice that your potential car has evidence of smoking, steer clear of it – unless you are a smoker and do not mind the smell. If you are planning on smoking in the car anyway, then you can try and haggle with the dealership to get a good deal.

Noticeable paint jobs or mismatched body panels

If there are noticeable paint jobs or parts of the car body that are replacements, then that is an indicator that the car suffered serious damage at some point. While minor fender benders are not a major problem with disqualifying a car for, the purchase of cars that have been involved in significant accidents or collisions is always a major risk on your end. 

The more a car is involved in major accidents, the more it will have some very significant, yet sneaky, mechanical problems that prove to be unsafe for you later on. 

For instance, you may want to buy a car but you notice that the frame of the vehicle was compromised. If another accident occurs, the car might not hold up to the impact – this is particularly important to remember because the frame’s purpose is to act as a barrier between the other car and you. If the protection is lacking, chances are even higher that you will suffer serious injuries or even fatalities.

Therefore, if you spot a car that has mismatched paint areas or conspicuous replacement work done, just leave it alone and move on.

Worn-out or mismatched tires

Tires may not seem expensive, but they are. If you are buying a used car and later notice that it needs new rubber, the cost of replacing its tires will easily set you back at least a hundred dollars. It is best to avoid this, but if you still want a car with tires that have minimal treads left, then you can negotiate with the dealer and make arrangements for a new set.

On the other hand, mismatched tires are a different story altogether. If you notice different tires, then that will tell you that the previous owner replaced them at different times and did not care very well for the rest of the car. That already is a bad deal in the making; because you will notice more improvements that are needed that will set you back even more.

Dirty fluid

It is even more important to check for the car’s fluids if you are dealing with a used car. The state of the fluids will tell you a lot of information: how the previous owner maintained the car, how well it was serviced, and the mechanical problems it may or may not have. 

If the fluids are dirty, then that is always a bad investment. For instance, you might notice that the coolant and oil are mixed together; that will indicate that the head gasket is about to be a goner. If the transmission fluid levels are low, then there may be leaks in the engine. If the fluids are full of debris or dirt, then you want to avoid the car entirely – debris and dirt is always an indicator of overheating.

Modifications at beginner-level


While sprucing up your car is not a bad thing, and can even be a favorite pastime for numerous people, it is not always done well. Not everyone who loves the job will do it as well as they assume, and some modifications will end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs.

The last thing you want is a car that was modified haphazardly. If the person performing the modification lacked experience or was using cheap materials, then you will bear the brunt of their mistakes later on.

The choice of car will depend on what you want, especially when looking at the modifications. If you want specified modification, such as purchasing an off-road car, then always request the dealership for more detailed information. This includes finding out the modifications that have been done, as well as the person that did the job. If you are unsure, you can always call in your mechanic to go over the car’s modifications with you, or take some time to inspect the car yourself.

Non-functional Engine lights

The check engine light might not seem useful as it does not tell you much, but it can be very useful when buying a used car. 

All dealerships should look into it and see if it works. If you are purchasing from private dealers, then always inspect and see whether it has any problems – if it does not come on, that is always a bad sign.


Purchasing a used car seems like a difficult task when you keep all these factors in mind, but it is important to take your time and make the right decision.

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