5 Things to Look for in Quality Used Cars

Used cars make good financial sense – and can even allow you to get a higher-end vehicle than you'd otherwise be able to afford. But just because it seems like a good deal doesn't mean that it is. Take a look at five things to look for in quality used cars:
  1. Low, or relatively low miles. Even though cars last a lot longer than they used to, if the car you're considering is near or over 100,000 miles, it's worth investigating why – and what kind of miles they are (highway or city). In general, good mileage for used cars up to six years old is 85,000 or less. That's the guideline used for Toyota Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles – and it's a good rule of thumb for anyone looking for quality used cars.
  2. Good overall appearance. If the car has obviously been dented and repaired, looks damaged in any way, has parts that are suspicious looking, or even has a musty smell, it could indicate that the car has been in an accident or flood. If you like the car enough to seriously consider buying it, a thorough vehicle history report, like a CARFAX report, can help you make an informed decision.
  3. Overall performance. When you take the vehicle for a test drive, try to drive both city streets and the highway. Take note of how responsive the steering and brakes are, as well as how it accelerates, corners, handles bumps and is impacted by turning on/off the air conditioning and heating. And don't forget to check the ignition, windshield wipers, tail and headlights, and warning lights on the dashboard (all of them should come on when you turn the key to the first position – and all of them should go off when you fully start the car).
  4. Intact safety features. Any quality used car should have all of its safety features intact – and in good working order, so check to make sure that all of the seatbelts work properly and if there's any question about the vehicle's airbags, anti-lock braking system, traction control, etc., take the car to a trusted mechanic and have them checked.
  5. It's comfortable, in general. Whether you drive a lot or a little, any car you choose should be comfortable to drive, so make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the car meets your needs. Check the seat adjustment and seat belts, mirrors (rear-view and side), steering wheel, gear shift, pedals, distance from the cup holders and even how easy or difficult the car is to enter and exit.