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What To Look For When Buying A Pre-Owned Car

Buying a car can be a daunting experience, especially when purchasing a pre-owned vehicle that has a history with previous owners. Because of that, it’s important to know what to look for before you buy to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your money. We have 7 tips that could help make your purchase process easier.

Bentley | Akron, OH

1. Vehicle Inspection

With a pre-owned vehicle, you’re going to want to inspect the exterior and the interior of the vehicle. Some of the main things to look for are scratches, dents, and rust. Small dings and scratches are to be expected with used vehicles, so they aren’t as much of a concern. Larger areas of damage are what you really want to look for here. CARFAX®️ recommends checking to see if the body panels line up evenly, because uneven panels can indicate that the
vehicle was in an accident, but not repaired properly. It’s also good to open and close the doors, hood, and trunk of the car to make sure that they’re
operating as expected. Kelley Blue Book®️ (KBB) suggests buyers to also check for paint overspray on the inside of the hood, trunk, and doors and to also make sure that the vehicle color matches on all parts. Overspray or mismatched paint can indicate that the part was repaired and repainted.

As for the interior, CARFAX®️ says that you’ll want to sit in and look at all the seats for unusual wear and tear on the upholstery. You’ll also want to take note of the smell of the vehicle. If the car smells musty, check the carpet and floor mats for any indication of a leak of water damage.

2. Take A Test Drive

A test drive can be crucial when purchasing a vehicle. It’s a great test to determine the condition of the vehicle and if it’s the right fit for you. KBB®️ tells customers to turn the key into the “accessory” position before starting the engine. From there, you’ll see the warning lights on the dashboard. Check for any lights that do not light up or don’t go away once the vehicle has been started. If either of those instances takes place, you’ll want to get the vehicle inspected by a professional to detect the issue.


KBB®️ also suggests for customers to listen for tapping or clicking sounds once the engine is started. You’ll want to drive the vehicle on different types of roads and at different speeds, if possible, to see if the transmission shifts smoothly and to listen for any unusual engine or brake noises.

3. Is It Important For A Pre-Owned Vehicle To Have Low Mileage?

While having low mileage on a vehicle does have some advantages, it doesn’t necessarily make them a great deal. Low mileage can definitely mean less wear and tear on the car, however, AutoTrader®️ says that the plastic and rubber parts on the vehicle can dry out and become brittle if the car is driven infrequently. It’s also better for the drivetrain when the vehicle is used more frequently and can lead to less repairs and reconditioning in the long run.

4. Check For Leaks

You’ll especially want to check under the vehicle for any fluid leaks as these are generally a good sign that a repair is needed. tells customers that black fluid can be an indicator of an oil leak, while green, yellow, or pink fluid can indicate a leak in antifreeze. They also say that reddish fluid can be a sign that there is a leak in the transmission or power-steering fluid.

5. Determine A Fair Price

You’ll want to compare prices for the same make, model, and year with multiple sources. You can check prices at other dealerships, as well as use some of the many online tools such as KBB®️, and National Automobile Dealers Association Guides. It’s important to also try to compare trims and accessories, if possible, as prices can vary drastically based on additional features that the car may have.

6. Research

One thing we suggest you do in your research is look up the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. The VIN can tell you a lot about the vehicle including the vehicle’s title and records, according to Edmunds®️. There are many VIN decoders online, including one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that you can find here. A VIN decoder can also tell you is there are any open recalls on the vehicle. Keep in mind that some brands, some nonsafety-related recalls, or recently announced recalls may not be listed.

Another thing we suggest you do is look at the vehicle history report. You can easily get this through CARFAX®️ like what you’ll see provided for every vehicle on our website. It’s important to look through the vehicle’s service history, ownership history, and to look for any titling problems or accidents according to KBB®️. 

7. Contact A Perfect Auto Specialist

While this isn’t a must in your car-buying process, we’re always willing to help you in your research process whether you’re buying from us or not. We know that car-buying can be intimidating when you may not know what to look for and what questions to ask, so we’re here to help alleviate some of that stress. 

Following these tips can help you make an informed decision and find the right car for you.

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What an amazing team to work with. We highly recommend working with TODD, so make sure to ask for him! We are out of state and this man did any and... everything we needed him to, including a very detailed overview of the car via FaceTime. Good people, good help, couldn’t ask for more!!⚡️ Thank you sir!!😉read more
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I was shopping for Mercedes s65 amg dealing with Todd Long he was an amazing sales person and definitely went way out of his way to help me out... doing everything virtual so I’d never have to leave the house giving me the 360 view of the vehicle on FaceTime(which was awesome, also answered every one of my 1000 question’s) and appraisal for my car the whole 9. Unfortunately I end up buying the Mercedes from a different lot due to the amount of owners on the one they had available but if they had the vehicle that I bought at their lot Todd is the man to go to!!!! definitely highly recommend,very professional and very punctual. Thank you so much for your time and wish you nothing but the best my friend take care. Hopefully you can help me get my wife’s car in the near future. Thanks again🙏-Andrewread more
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Had a great and pleasant experience working with Todd over at Perfect Auto Collection. Made my first out of state car buying experience a breeze. He... video called me and showed me all the ins and outs of the car I chose. Also pointed out any, if any, imperfections. I’d definitely recommend him and the rest of the team at Perfect Auto Collection to anyone who’s in the market! 10/10!!read more
Working with the Perfect Auto Collection team was an awesome experience. I live in Illinois and travel for work but Todd Long and team helped me... purchase an amazing car. I would definitely recommend Perfect Auto, Todd, and Mike. I will be buying from them again. Thank you Perfect Auto Collection!read more
I bought my car from Perfect Auto Collection in Sept. '22 and could not have been happier. I was hesitant to buy a car (the most expensive I've ever... owned) sight-unseen from 700 miles away, but Todd and the team made the whole experience flawless. From our video walkarounds to coordinating financing, text updates to shipping, everything went quickly and smoothly. Todd had great follow-up, and I honestly feel like the experience was better than I had when shopping locally. And when the car arrived.... just wow. It was everything it was represented to be and literally better than I expected. And while I won't be in the market for another car anytime soon, when the time comes, PAC will be the first dealership I call!read more
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