Buying a Used Car in Texas? Here Is How to Check It

Tips to Properly Evaluate a Used Car

Buying a car will likely be the largest purchase you make all year, so it’s important you put a lot of thought and research into it. Shopping for used cars vs. new cars for sale in Houston is a slightly different process.

Buying a Used Car in Texas? Here Is How to Check It

With new cars, the biggest challenge consumers face is pricing. Due to the semiconductor chip shortage and inflation, the MSRP on new cars increased across the board. This has motivated consumers to take a good hard look at the used car market; however, unlike a new car, used cars need to be thoroughly checked to confirm they’re in good condition. This is especially true for used cars that are no longer under warranty.

So, how do you check a used car to confirm its reliability and overall condition? Here are our top three tips.

#1 – Perform a Visual Inspection

When a used car is listed, the seller generally provides some details about the cosmetic condition of the car. If they list the condition as “good” or “great,” for instance, then you will need to visually inspect the vehicle to confirm it.

When checking the body of the vehicle, look for the following:

  • Scratches and chipped paint
  • Dents, dings, and other damage
  • Rust spots
  • Faded paint
  • Windshield and window cracks
  • Low tire tread
  • Lights and/or headlamps that don’t work

When checking the interior of the vehicle, look for the following:

  • Odors that are moldy, musty, or that smell like cigarette smoke
  • Seats that are ripped, stained, or otherwise damaged
  • Controls or instruments that don’t work
  • Speakers that sound blown out or crackly
  • Stains, damage, or signs of wear 

It’s worth noting that no used car is going to be fresh-off-the-assembly-line perfect; the point of the inspection is to gauge the car’s actual condition vs. how it was listed. If the seller lists their vehicle in “great” condition when it clearly has cosmetic damage and other flaws, that may be an indicator that the seller is overvaluing the car.

#2 – Inspect Under the Hood

One of the most important parts of the vehicle is everything under the hood, and yet many used car buyers neglect to check it. Even if you’re not super knowledgeable about cars, there are still some checks you should perform before any money changes hands. When checking under the hood of a used vehicle, you should:

  • Check all the belts and hoses for wear, fraying, and other damage
  • Using the owner’s manual as your guide, check all the fluids (oil, transmission, coolant, power steering, and brake) of the vehicle to confirm they are at acceptable levels and in good condition
  • Check the battery for signs of erosion

 #3 – Thoroughly Test Drive the Vehicle

When test driving a used car, you will want to confirm that the vehicle can handle all your daily driving habits. That means you should take the car through numerous driving scenarios and test out all the main driving-related features. When test driving a used car, make sure you: 

  • Drive the car at low to moderate speeds through residential areas
  • Drive the car at high speeds on the highway or interstate
  • Drive the car in reverse
  • Check to see if the car pulls to the right or left
  • Make multiple right-hand and left-hand turns
  • Test the car’s ability to accelerate
  • Test the car’s brakes
  • Test the turn signals, windshield wipers, and other instruments

If you notice that the car’s brakes seem weak, the steering isn’t responsive, or some other type of mechanical issue, that may be an indicator that the car hasn’t been serviced in a while. On a related note, you should always ask the seller for their most up-to-date service records.

Don’t Hesitate to Get a Professional Involved

If you’re not confident in your abilities to inspect a used car, you always have the option of enlisting the services of a mechanic or someone who is experienced in diagnosing cars. A motivated seller should have gotten the vehicle professionally inspected anyway; however, some of them either forget or neglect to do it.

Whatever the case may be, paying a nominal fee to have the vehicle looked over by a professional is well worth the investment. It will either confirm the car is in good condition or reveal issues with the car you didn’t previously know about.

How to Get Started Finding the Perfect Used Car

The great thing about used car shopping these days is that the internet makes it incredibly easy. You can kick off your search by Googling “used cars for sale near me” or by searching the make and model of the specific vehicle you’re looking for. If inspecting the car yourself or hiring someone to do it seems like too much of a hassle, you can always adjust your search filters to only show certified pre-owned vehicles. This ensures the car will be in good working order and you have some form of a warranty when you drive off the lot.