Guidelines for Evaluating a Used Car

Choosing a used car means you need to do a little extra legwork before signing your name on the dotted line. When a car has been owned before, you don’t usually have the luxury of a manufacturer’s warranty, and you certainly don’t know how previous owners may have treated the car before you came along. You should inspect any used car thoroughly before buying—here’s a list of guidelines and red flags to watch out for.

If you’re buying from a used car dealership in Mesa, AZ, make sure to ask what kind of warranties the dealership offers when negotiating your price.


If you see any of these in your car, it’s probably best to find another option:

  • Overall appearance: Look for significant amounts of rust, signs of water damage or mildew in the interior, funny smells and dripping oil.
  • When you drive it: If the engine makes strange noises, especially knocking noises that speed up when you accelerate, or the car just doesn’t handle well, it’s probably a lemon.
  • Under the hood: Gooey black oil and dark or burned automatic transmission fluid means the engine hasn’t been well taken care of.
  • Other factors: If the title says “salvage,” run away.

Major issues

These issues are serious, but if you don’t mind putting out extra money for repairs, you could use them as a reason to bring the price down. However, if you notice more than a few of these factors, move on:

  • Overall appearance: Mismatched tires, rust spots, smoke from the exhaust and poorly-repaired damage should send up a few yellow flags, if not red flags.
  • When you drive it: Watch out for warning lights that don’t come on, or that come on and stay on. As you drive, notice the automatic or manual transmission (does it clunk or is it stiff to shift?), whether the engine goes into a consistent idle, if the acceleration is smooth and if the odometer appears to be working properly.
  • Under the hood: Look for rust on the underbody, as well as any oil or fluid leaks. You also want to make sure the underbody isn’t dented or pinched, the brake pedals don’t show too much wear and that the serpentine belt has been recently replaced.
  • Other factors: Do the windows and sunroof open smoothly? Do the locks work properly?

Minor issues

Finally, minor issues like missing owner’s manuals, gaps in service records and minor aesthetic concerns (like faded/cracked interiors) can help you negotiate the price down as well—as long as these things don’t bother you.

Used car dealership in Mesa, AZ

USA Auto, INC is a bad credit car lot in Mesa, AZ. We offer a wide variety of quality used vehicles at affordable prices. Our family owned and operated business will help you get into a great used car, truck, SUV or minivan no matter what your credit score looks like. We offer financing options, great customer service and standard warranties—call or stop by today to get started and check out our selection.