Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

Something to look out for when shopping for used cars in Fort Worth, a close up shows a door dent on a vehicle.

5 Used Car Flaws to Look Past (And 5 to Avoid at All Costs)

If you choose to buy a used car, you’re able to take advantage of the perks of doing so, like lower payments, a larger selection, and more of the features you’re looking for. Although this all sounds great, there are a few risk factors to watch out for to ensure that you get a reliable car. However, just because a car has some dents and scratches doesn’t mean it’s not a great buy. Whether you’re looking for used cars in Fort Worth, Omaha, Miami, or anywhere else in the country, there are sure to be options out there that check all the boxes on your mental wishlist and a few to steer clear of at all costs. Your car plays a vital role in your everyday routine, so the last thing you want is an unreliable one. Here’s what you’re able to look past when buying used and what should never be ignored.

Okay – Cosmetic Issues

You don’t need to own a car for very long to have the unfortunate shopping cart vs fender debacle. It only takes an instant for small dings, scrapes, and chipped paint to occur, and when you’re shopping for used cars, you can expect to find a variety of these minor cosmetic issues. The good thing is that a couple of scratches, a small dent in the hood, and small chips in the paint won’t make or break your purchase. These are what the industry refers to as minor cosmetic issues that won’t affect the vehicle’s performance. If something is really bothering you, it’s usually a quick fix.

Okay – Minor Injuries

Accidents happen, and they don’t always have to be serious affairs. Overestimating the distance between your bumper and the car in front of you is a common occurrence that doesn’t often warrant expensive repairs. The bottom line is that if you pull a vehicle history report and you see the used car you’re interested in has been involved in an accident, delve deeper into what kind of accident happened and get the facts. Chances are, it may not have been that serious and that all proper repairs have been made to the vehicle.

Okay – Easy Fixes

The longer you own a vehicle, the more repairs and routine maintenance you’ll be responsible for, and if you’re looking at a used car, the same holds true. Easy fixes like a dead battery, low engine fluid, and even a missed oil change can all be handled by a qualified mechanic. The good thing is that if you buy your used car from a reputable used car dealer, these things will have already been handled. Each used car that hits these lots should be examined and restored to an acceptable state before a price tag hits its window.

Okay – Wear and Tear

Like batteries and engine fluid, other parts of your car will need attention at some point as well. If a used car in question is sporting worn tires and needs some commonly replaced items like timing belts and brake pads, these can be handled quickly and affordably through a reputable mechanic. And again, this shouldn’t be an issue if you buy your used car from a well-respected dealer. Just know that various parts of a car will experience wear and tear, which is completely natural. Excessive wear, on the other hand, is another story.

Okay – Convenience Feature Performance

Nowadays, the cars we’re shopping for have a lot of bells and whistles, and sometimes, these added features may need a tune-up. Damaged touchscreens and dead speakers may need a skilled hand to bring their performance back up to speed. Seating upholstery may also need some cleaning and light repairs, especially if there is more wear over time. However, these don’t impact how the car runs and therefore are categorized as a minor flaw.

A man is shown standing between two cars after a collision.

Avoid – Serious Accidents

On the flip side, there are certain flaws of a used car that shouldn’t be ignored, and serious accidents are one of these issues. Damage to the vehicle’s frame or axles, flooding from a natural disaster, and other more serious circumstances mean that the car’s damage may be more significant than meets the eye. It’s important to pull a vehicle history report (reputable dealers will provide one for free) and learn more about the vehicle to ensure that you won’t be dealing with a host of issues popping up after you’ve signed on the dotted line.

Avoid – Big-Ticket Problems

There are minor problems that can be easily taken care of, and then there are big-ticket items that may end up costing you beaucoup bucks in the end. Things like engine trouble, suspension issues, and brake performance will need to be addressed before taking a car out on the road because your safety and the safety of those around you are a top priority. Plus, the last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the highway in the car you just bought because there was a serious underlying issue. Now not only do you have a responsibility that needs repairs, but this can end up costing you more than you may have imagined.

Avoid – Amateur Repairs

Not every person who works on a vehicle is a professional, and if the previous owner of the vehicle you like has tried to cut corners and used amateurs for their car’s repairs, chances are the person who will suffer from it will be you. Shoddy wiring, incorrect replacement parts, and improper techniques can cause more problems to erupt later on, which means inspecting a vehicle in depth is recommended. Pop the hood of the vehicle you’re looking at and have a skilled professional examine it.

Avoid – Ignored Recalls

It’s become fairly common to experience a recall or two during a vehicle’s lifetime. Airbags, engine parts, and other vehicle aspects can all be subject to a recall, and it’s your responsibility as the owner to ensure these get addressed in a timely manner. The best way to make sure the used vehicle you’re interested in has had all of its recalls handled is to write down the VIN and visit This government website will tell you if there are any open recalls for that vehicle.

Avoid – More Than Cosmetic Damage

As we mentioned before, minor cosmetic damage, like paint chips and dents, is perfectly normal for a used car. However, if you notice excessive rust or corrosion on any part of the vehicle, it may be time to look elsewhere. This is bad news for the structural integrity of the vehicle, as well as its parts and operation. Rust only gets worse over time, and the one who will likely suffer from the results of ignoring these issues is you.

A close up shows rust and cracked paint on a vehicle.

Your Next Used Car

Shopping for a used car means that you’re able to get a car with all the features you want without overpaying for it. It also means more research will need to be done in order to ensure you’re making the right decision because overlooking one of the more serious problems can result in more stress, higher costs, and less confidence in your vehicle. However, used cars are great investments, and just because there are cars out there with serious underlying issues, it doesn’t mean you should avoid all used cars.

In taking the extra time to learn more about a vehicle and partnering with a reputable used car dealer, you’ll be sure that your choice is a solid one that won’t let you down. Teaming up with the right dealership means that all the minor issues have already been taken care of, and it means that you won’t find any surprises along the way. When it’s time to get the right used car for you, keep this important information in mind.