Used Car Red Flags

When done correctly, buying a used car can provide you with great long-term value. However, it's easy to fall into some traps and wind up spending money on a vehicle that isn't as it seems. It's important to look for red flags, or warning signs, as you're shopping for a used vehicle because they'll tell you when something isn't right. Below, we'll outline some of the most important red flags to look out for.

Price Doesn't Match Value

The first thing to look for is whether the selling price of the vehicle matches its estimated value. If someone is trying to sell you a vehicle that is significantly higher or lower than the estimated value, then this is a red flag. For example, if the price is a lot lower, the seller may be trying to get rid of a vehicle that's on the verge of breaking down, despite not appearing so from the outside.

You can easily find the estimated value of a vehicle using online tools. While some differences between the two numbers are fine — for example, a dealership may be offering a used vehicle special — you need to be on the lookout for drastic differences.

Along similar lines, look into any additional charges that may come with the sale. Some sellers try to tack on extra charges in order to make up for their lower sales price. In some cases, extra charges are legitimate, such as if a car has added features like a sunroof. The best thing you can do is ask the seller to explain any additional charges so that you can ensure they are legitimate.

Lack of Vehicle History

The next thing to look at is a vehicle's history. Most reputable sellers are able to provide you with a full history of the vehicle, including any accidents it's been in. It's important to know the history of a vehicle so that you can ensure you're estimating the value correctly. You can request a vehicle's history report from any dealership and they will provide it to you. If the seller won't provide you with a detailed history, then they may be trying to hide something from you, making this another red flag.

Missing Paperwork

Car owners should have several documents related to their vehicle and their ownership of it. The most essential document is the car's title. If the seller doesn't have the title, go find another car to buy. The title grants legal ownership, so if the seller doesn't have this, that means they do not have the legal right to sell it.

It's also a good idea to inspect the title and ensure it's legitimate. Make sure it matches the vehicle you're considering and has the official state seal on it. Getting a title isn't an issue at most car dealerships, but you may run into an issue if you're trying to buy from a private seller.

Not Allowed Further Inspection

Many car buyers want to inspect a used vehicle before they buy it. They may perform this inspection themselves or ask to bring the car to their own auto repair center. Often, the seller allows this, as they want to give the buyer peace of mind that there are no hidden issues with the vehicle.

However, if the seller is unwilling to allow you to inspect the vehicle further, this is a red flag. They may be trying to hide some significant defect that would be revealed upon closer inspection. If the seller says they don't want you to bring the car anywhere, ask them to bring it to your mechanic or offer to bring a mechanic to their location. If you're unable to reach any sort of arrangement to have the vehicle inspected, you're likely better off going with another vehicle.

Mismatched Body Paint

Take a close look at the exterior of the vehicle. If you notice areas with two different paint colors, this is often a red flag. Two paint colors can happen when a seller is trying to cover a defect rather than repair the issue. For example, there may be some scratches or rust in the area.

It's sometimes hard to get the exact same color paint for the exterior of a vehicle, especially when you factor in that some colors fade over time. This leads to a mismatch in the color shades. If you notice this anywhere on the outside of the vehicle, you can try asking the seller about it. However, in many cases, it's simply better to move onto another vehicle due to this red flag.

Poor Car Sales Experience

Finally, besides the vehicle itself, you should consider your car sales experience when shopping for vehicles. If the person selling you a vehicle is very pushy, this is a red flag. They could be trying to get rid of the vehicle quickly because there's an issue with it.

If you feel pressured at all during the sales process, don't be afraid to walk away and find another vehicle elsewhere. The best salespeople are those who are interested in helping you find the perfect vehicle at an affordable price, not those who want to sell a vehicle as quickly as possible.

Shop for Used Cars at CarSmart of Farmington

Avoiding red flags is key if you want to find a used vehicle you love. The best way to do this is by visiting CarSmart of Farmington. We have a wide selection of used vehicles for you to choose from. By shopping with us, you will have access to full vehicle histories, a friendly sales staff, and a transparent sales process. We inspect all of our vehicles for quality, ensuring that our customers drive away in something reliable.

To get started, you can browse our inventory online or contact us today to schedule a test drive. You can also quickly value your trade-in to make your next vehicle purchase more affordable. Don't settle for a sales process that's full of red flags. Get your next used vehicle from CarSmart in Farmington.


CarSmart of Jackson

2856 Sappington Dr

Jackson, MO 63755


Think CarSmart

4854 US Highway 67

Farmington, MO 63640