What to Consider When Shopping for a Used Car

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Used Car Sign/Image Credit: tedmurphy

When on the lookout for a used car, the first thing we typically look at is how many hours have been logged on the road. For many prospective buyers, this is the ultimate indicator of just how used a previously owned car, truck, or SUV is. It is fair to assume that a vehicle that has been driven extensively has fewer good years left than one that has only been gently used.

However, a car that has many miles on it can still have plenty of life left in it. A used car’s expected lifespan and related pricing can depend as much on the vehicle’s history as on whether it is high-mileage or low-mileage. When buying a previously owned vehicle from a reputable dealer, they will do an assessment of the vehicle’s condition that not only takes into account how far it has been driven, but also many other factors that can affect its value. Let’s take a look at those factors!


Prospective buyers need to look at the overall condition and not simply a number on the dashboard. It is entirely possible that a used car has endured a long daily commute, but the previous owner took such meticulous care of it that it is still in excellent shape. Keeping up with regular service checkups and fixing small issues before they become major repairs are just as important to the lifespan of a vehicle as the number of miles that it has driven.

The truth is that an older car that has hardly been driven at all can be in even worse shape than one that has been driven too much! Leaving a car sitting in a driveway or garage for extended periods can lead to engine trouble and corrosion.

Vehicle History

How a car was used (as opposed to how often) can be one of the best indicators of how much life might still be left in it. For example, a car that was mostly driven in the suburbs and on highways is likely to be in much better shape than one that was driven on rough country roads. A vehicle that has a history of accidents and extensive repairs is also one to be wary of. CARFAX is one of the leading companies when it comes to vehicle history reporting.

Service History

Car Repair/Image Credit: DuxX

Whenever possible, it’s ideal to get a copy of a vehicle’s service history to make sure that it has been properly cared for with regular oil changes and tune-ups. A vehicle that has not received routine service will definitely not last as long as one that has been well maintained.


This can be an indication that the car has been on the market for a long time and the seller is desperate to get rid of it. Maybe it’s just a great deal but be sure to do your homework to make sure you’re not getting a lemon.

Buying From a Dealership vs a Private Seller

There are advantages to both. While a dealership can give your prospective vehicle a thorough checkup to determine the value, buying directly from the owner can give you a glimpse into the vehicle’s previous life. Regardless of where you are buying from, it’s important to get a Carfax report to find out as much as possible about the car’s history.  

The Bottom Line

If you’ve taken all the above factors into consideration and done your homework on a vehicle’s background, you can potentially get many good years out of a previously owned vehicle. Don’t be turned off by a car that has a few scratches or minor dents if it ticks many of the other boxes for you. There are countless great buys out there for discerning shoppers who know what to look for.

If you’re in the market for a previously owned car, truck, or SUV, start your search right here at BestRide.com! Our site features millions of used vehicles across the U.S. and can connect you with the perfect ride for you!