Buying a used car doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s a great way to get a good deal on a vehicle and avoid having car payments for years to come. But, how can you tell if a used car is in good mechanical condition?

The auto care experts at South Ogden Tunex know how important it is to have a reliable vehicle. Whether it’s you driving, or perhaps your teenager, you want something you can count on. Here are our tips for buying a used car.

Things to Look at When Buying a Used Car


You’re probably familiar with the concept of “kicking the tires” of a car before purchasing it. This advice is actually pretty helpful! More specifically, though, we recommend taking a good look at the tires, rather than giving a good kick. You can see from even just a glance what kind of condition they’re in. It’s important to look for even wear on the treads of all four tires; uneven wear may indicate an alignment issue. Sure, a front-end or four-wheel alignment may not seem too expensive as a one-time cost, but alignment problems may be a symptom of a bigger issue. Car repair costs can add up quickly, but you might be able to avoid them if you read the signs on a car’s tires and walk away.

Under the Hood

Pop the hood and look for cracking, fraying and discoloration on hoses and belts around the engine. A once-over should provide you with confirmation that they’re all in good working order. While under the hood, check the engine compartment for signs of leaks. If the oil has been leaking, you should be able to see dark brown stains. Be sure to check the following for signs of leaks and discoloration as well:

  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Transmission fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Air conditioning coolant (aka refrigerant or Freon)
  • Radiator fluid

Additionally, see if those fluid tanks are topped off. If any appear low, don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation. It could just be that the current owner hasn’t refilled them in a while, or they could be low because they leak. Look at the undercarriage of the car for signs of drips as well.

Take a Step Back 

Now that you’ve looked at some of the nitty-gritty details of the car, take a step back. Look at the car as a whole. Are body panels aligned and evenly spaced? Is the frame of the car situated evenly over the wheels? If you stand back you should be able to notice if any wheel wells are uneven, if one side of the car sits lower than the other, or if there are any obvious and/or minute signs of a collision. If there are any discrepancies when it comes to the car’s exterior it could be an indication of problems that will eventually require costly auto care.

Take it for a Spin 

It may seem obvious to recommend taking a car for a test drive, but we have some specific recommendations when you do get behind the wheel. Of course, it’s great if you love the feel of the car and the interior design of the dashboard. But don’t forget to listen to the car as well. What does the car sound like when you turn it on? Do you hear any indication that it’s having trouble starting up? Listen for unusual sounds (whirring, clanking, humming, screeching, etc…). These could be indicators that the car is having mechanical problems. 

When you test drive the car, what do you feel? Does the car shift smoothly, or do you feel it catching? Whether it’s an automatic or manual transmission, you don’t want to get a sense that there’s a catch when the car is shifting gears. Be aware of any looseness in the car, or uneven bouncing. When the car is idle, does it rev high?

Regardless of the weather, check the car’s air conditioner and heater. You want to be sure all the vents are blasting the good stuff before you find yourself melting in the summer or freezing in the winter. 

Brand new or previously owned, we provide the best in South Ogden auto care. We service all makes and models and offer brake repair, emissions and safety, tune-ups and more. Let us know how we can help you today.