Finding Reliable Used Cars: What to Look for

April 11th, 2023 by

Finding a dependable car at a great price can challenge many buyers needing reliable transportation. However, understanding how to navigate the process of buying a used car and the red flags to look for helps. So we asked our used car specialists to provide instructions on how to shop for used vehicles and identify the red flags telling you to walk away.

List Out Your Vehicle Needs

used nissan parked on a lot in cape girardeau, MO

Image by THE SMADE JOURNAL | Licensed with CC BY 2.0

First, you must determine what you need in a car. Of course, everyone wants a reliable vehicle. However, some shoppers prioritize sports car performance over towing capacity. Others want a premium interior with all the bells and whistles. And still, many people need passenger and cargo volume to tote the kids to and from dance rehearsals and soccer practices. So write out a list of all those needs.

Next, we recommend you list features you don’t like on your current car. These two lists will help you identify vehicles that suit your lifestyle best. It also prevents you from paying for features you don’t want or never use.

Red Flag: Don’t let a salesperson tell you that a feature matters or doesn’t matter. If it made your list, it matters to you.

The Three R’s: Research, Research, Research

If you’ve listed your needs and eliminated features you don’t want, you have a pretty good idea of the type of vehicle you want by now. So as you shop for used cars, do a little research on the models you like. You need to know a vehicle’s value before properly negotiating. Accident history, mileage, and condition all factor into a car’s price.

Getting a vehicle history report will tell you if a car has been in an accident. Of course, an accident doesn’t automatically make it a bad purchase option, but it does reduce the price. In fact, if a qualified mechanic did the repairs, you can save money and still get a reliable vehicle.

Red Flag: If a seller doesn’t provide a vehicle history report and won’t allow you to get one, walk away. Chances are there’s a problem they want to hide.

Keep Your Emotions Out of the Process

This may be the hardest advice to follow, but buying a car should be done without emotion. Many shoppers sometimes make the mistake of falling in love with a vehicle before they even start looking. Maybe it’s a sports car you’ve always imagined yourself driving, or you dreamed of owning an off-road vehicle with a raised suspension and aggressive style. Don’t shop looking only for your dream car. Make sure you stick to your list, and if, in the process, you come across that convertible you’ve always wanted, great.

Limiting yourself to finding your dream vehicle does two things. First, it brings emotion into the process, which impacts your ability to inspect and negotiate impartially. Second, if you find your dream vehicle, you are more likely to overlook features you don’t want or vice versa. Maybe it wasn’t maintained properly or had a few too many miles on it, or the asking price is too high. By imagining yourself in it, you are more willing to accept these faults to realize your dream.

Red Flag: Beware of salespeople describing the feeling of cruising down the highway or conquering off-road adventures. They are trying to get you to make an emotional buying decision, which works to their advantage, not yours.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

Before shopping, take a moment in front of a mirror and practice saying the word “no.” Practicing beforehand makes it easier to do if needed. Motivated sellers try to put you in an awkward position, asking you not to worry about negative features or trying to validate higher-than-normal prices. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Red Flag: A reputable salesperson will listen to your concerns and try to find another vehicle that better suits you. Conversely, a disreputable seller will try to convince you that the vehicle is perfect. Chances are, they don’t have the car you want and don’t want you to leave without buying a vehicle.

Always Test Drive and Inspect a Used Car

If you find a car that checks all the boxes on your list, you still need to test drive it and have it inspected by a professional. Test driving a vehicle lets you see how it fits. You’ll quickly learn if you’re comfortable and if it has the desired performance. You’d be surprised how many shoppers initially decide against a car they liked after taking it for a spin.

After you test drive the car and find it suits you, schedule an inspection with a qualified mechanic. It should only cost around $150 and takes one to two hours. An inspection will reveal any hidden or potential problems you’ll be dealing with later. Again, many people end up walking away from a deal after they have the car inspected because a problem is exposed.

Red Flag:¬†A seller who won’t let you test drive or inspect a vehicle is probably hiding something. Walk away immediately.

Most Popular Used Cars

Trendy vehicles come and go, but the good ones remain popular year after year. published a list of the best-selling used cars of 2022. We’re proud to say the Nissan Rogue made the top ten.

  • Nissan Rogue.
  • Toyota RAV4.
  • Ford F-150.
  • Chevy Equinox.
  • Toyota Camry.
  • Ford Escape.
  • Chevy Silverado.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee.
  • Ram 1500.
  • Toyota Camry.

At John Sinclair Nissan, these vehicles often come through our dealership. However, because of their popularity, they don’t last long. However, these brands make many cars, trucks, and SUVs with similar quality and reliability. And it isn’t uncommon to find these top vehicles on our Used Inventory Specials page.

Benefits of Buying a Used Car From John Sinclair Nissan

At John Sinclair Nissan, you get a reputable dealer selling you a car. A dealer that stands behind every sale with our world-class service center. And our selection of over 600 pre-owned vehicles provides you with options. In addition, we have many financing programs for buyers in all credit categories. You don’t get that when you purchase privately.

If you’re ready to find the perfect vehicle at a great price, we invite you to¬†browse our inventory online. Then, when you’re prepared to make a deal, you can visit us for the all-important test drive. Again, you won’t find any red flags, only quality cars at great prices.

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