Woman in a white t-shirt on the phone with hand on head in front of car with the hood open

Four Warning Signs of a Bad Used Car

Shopping for a car can be stressful, and these uneasy feeling are only exasperated if you decide to opt for a used vehicle. Nowadays, many used dealerships tend to be reputable, but we’d understand if you’re still a bit apprehensive about pursuing these particular rides. After all, we’ve all heard the stories of low-quality rides and untrustworthy sellers. No one wants to be a victim, but you can’t help but feel cautious as you’re shopping for the best possible deal. Well, if you’re looking to improve the car-buying process (or at least make it a lot less stressful), we’ve got the perfect guide for you. Below, we’ve provided several warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored while pursuing a used car. These tips don’t only refer to the quality of the vehicle, but they also address the seller (and their potentially unethical practices). Before you start shopping at used car dealerships near you, take a peek at what you should be wary of while searching for that pre-owned ride…


Warning Sign #1: Mismatching Upholstery

This is an odd observation that most car buyers will ignore as they’re shopping for a used car. Of course, it’s not essential to be meticulously eyeing your targeted car’s upholstery. However, if you suspect that you may be dealing with a sketchy seller, it’s in your best interest to inspect every single aspect of the car, and that includes the carpeting.

Why is inconsistent upholstery important? Well, no car brand is producing a vehicle that has mismatching materials strewn throughout the interior. Rather, if the upholstery isn’t consistent, it’s an indication that the seller replaced the interior materials. Why would they do that? The most common reason is water damage. These types of indiscretions are rather obvious, as potential buyers will notice stains or mold. Sellers will rip out the carpeting and replace it with brand-new upholstery, but the mechanical water damage still remains. It shouldn’t be all that important if the upholstery was replaced; rather, it’s worrisome that the car’s essential mechanical components also experienced water damage (not to mention the fact that the seller attempted to hide these problems).

How can you tell if the vehicle’s upholstery has been replaced? Look in the trunk. Often times, sellers will fail to replace these materials, as they’ll only focus in on the cabin. If you compare the materials included in the trunk to the materials included in the cabin, you’ll have more clarity on any potential water damage.


Warning Sign #2: Messy Interior

Ultimately, a messy interior doesn’t do a whole lot to compromise the quality of a vehicle. However, if a seller couldn’t take the time to clean out their cabin, it could be indicative of a much larger (and worrisome) issue.

In other words, if the driver couldn’t dedicate the effort to taking care of the inside of the vehicle, what are the chances they took the time to take care of the mechanical aspects of their vehicle? The answer is “unlikely,” as there’s a lesser chance that these previous owners stayed up to date on any necessary oil changes or mechanical check-ups. If you notice that your targeted car is full of trash, dirt, or grime, you should be questioning the quality of the vehicle under the hood.

What’s the best way to remedy this predicament? You can simply give the vehicle a test driver, which should provide you with at least some indication of any mechanical problems. While a test drive won’t reveal all the potential issues lingering under the hood, they’ll at least reveal some of the more obvious problems. For instance, if you notice any odd sounds emanating from the hood, you’ll probably want to switch your focus to another used target.


Warning Sign #3: No Vehicle History Report

Nowadays, vehicle history reports are readily available to all car buyers. Even if you’re pursuing a vehicle online, most sellers will still manage to provide you with some details on the nameplate’s background. While it may not encompass everything, these reports should at least indicate whether the vehicle has endured a whole lot of repairs.

Since these reports are so easily accessible, it should be a warning sign if a dealership or seller is unwilling to fork over this essential information. Ultimately, if the seller has nothing to hide, they shouldn’t be tentative about providing you with this report. However, if they are unwilling to deliver this important information, it’s probably an indication that the vehicle has endured its fair share of issues in the past. In other words, if you can’t get your hands on a vehicle history report, it’s not worth the risk. Instead of gambling and going forward with a purchase, you should just move on to a different nameplate.

This same sentiment applies to mechanic visits. If you’re pursuing a used vehicle, you should be requesting a visit to an unbiased, private mechanic. This allows an impartial individual to give you a proper assessment of the vehicle’s quality. Assuming the vehicle’s in fine working condition, the dealership or seller shouldn’t have an issue with this request. However, if they do indeed have a problem with you taking the car to a private mechanic, you should be tentative about going through with the purchase.


Warning Sign #4: Inconsistencies of Car Listing

Nowadays, you can find most dealerships’ inventory listed on their website. This is incredibly helpful, as it allows drivers to do most of their shopping before they even head out to a business. It also provides clarity on any of the accompanying amenities, and it will allow you to anticipate your impending investment.

However, there may be an issue if information if you arrive to the dealership and find that the information on the website isn’t accurate or reflected in their inventory. Sure, you can probably tolerate a typo or two, but you should be skeptical if there’s a huge discrepancy in the listed price or specs. If you run into this particular issue, you should probably head out of the dealership as soon as possible. There’s clearly some sketchy, untrustworthy business practices taking place, and you don’t want to find yourself as one of these dealerships’ latest victims. Don’t end up with a lemon!