9 Signs You Should Walk Away From a Used Car

Looking for a new set of wheels for a good deal? Checking out used cars can be the right way to go; however, if you decide to go this route, you should exercise caution. A vehicle being sold for a bargain can pose several problems not only for your safety but also for your car insurance.

Here are 9 signs that a used car could be trouble for you:

Flood Damage – A car that has flood damage will be marked as “salvage” on its title in some states or they might have a specific flood designation in other states. Some owners may try to cover up the damage by giving the car a fresh coat of paint or replacing the upholstery, but there could still be rust, mold, mildew, and damage to critical systems. While it isn’t illegal to buy or sell these cars, it’s illegal to not let someone know that the car had been flooded. Even still, be aware if you come across a car that might show signs of flood damage.

Salvage Title – Speaking of which, if a car is declared totaled or, as we discussed in the point above, flooded, its title will be marked as “salvage.” These vehicles can certainly be repaired, inspected, and back on the road again, but their history will stay with them on the title. Be very careful when looking at a salvage title as potential problems could still remain.

The Air Bags Were Deployed – According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, once air bags go off after an accident, an authorized repair center must install new certified ones. If you come across a report that shows that an air bag was deployed, make sure that it was properly replaced. You can check this yourself or have a trusted mechanic do this for you.

High Mileage – As owners with older cars will tell you, vehicles that have higher mileage on them tend to break down more often and require more repairs (which can be quite costly). Think carefully before purchasing a car with high mileage. Additionally, be aware of any tampering with the odometer; some sellers may try to reverse the mileage to affect the price. Get a vehicle history check when in doubt or ask your mechanic to see if the car’s condition matches the odometer reading.

Structural Damage – A car doesn’t have to be totaled to spell trouble for you later on. A car with minor frame damage from a minor collision can still produce problems and compromise the structural integrity of the vehicle. Look out for signs of welding or clamping, repaired parts that don’t fit right, and mismatched parts.

Many Owners – If a car has traded hands frequently, beware! Multiple sales could indicate problems that you want to steer clear of. A vehicle report will list the number of owners that used to have the vehicle in question.

Hard Usage – Vehicles that have taken quite a beating, especially former police cruisers, rentals, and taxicabs, can wind up with a shorter lifespan on the road. As always, you should be able to determine the car’s condition and past with vehicle reports.

Failed Inspections – If you see a failed inspection on a vehicle report, you might want to consider turning around and leaving it. If you really want the vehicle, though, just mention it to the mechanic who’s inspecting the car. He or she will be able to tell you if it will wind up being a safety hazard or not.

Stolen Vehicle – Want to buy a car that was stolen? We hope you’ll reconsider. The vehicle could be seized by police and you might not be able to get a refund. Thieves will often hide or replace the VIN tags, but you can always check out vehicle reports to see if the car had been reported as stolen. Also, inspect the VIN plates for tampering, and make sure that all the numbers match between the vehicle and the documents.

Before buying a used car, have a mechanic you trust evaluate it fully. As always, if you have any questions about how your insurance comes into play, don’t hesitate to talk to us at Madison Mutual when you call 1-800-766-MMIC!