Common Used Car Pitfalls and How To Avoid Them

Need a Used Car in Grand Junction?

A car is one of the most stressful purchases a person can make in their lifetime. We rely on our vehicles to get us to and from work and school safely, so there’s a lot to consider when purchasing a vehicle. While there’s not as much to worry about if purchasing a car from a reputable used car dealership, buying a vehicle from an auction or the owner can come with some significant risks. Here are the most common pitfalls people find when purchasing a used car from somewhere other than a reputable dealership.

Flood Damage

Sometimes a price on a used vehicle is just too good to be true. Be sure to thoroughly investigate any vehicle that seems to be a steal of a deal, because it just might have deeper issues that will reveal themselves down the road. Sometimes, big storms total a bunch of cars. Unfortunately, dishonest car owners may jump at the chance to make a few bucks off of the catastrophe. Reports of flooded vehicles purchased at low prices to then be cleaned up and taken over state lines to switch the VIN and title are common after natural disasters such as hurricanes. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is aware of the issue and warns consumers to vet any used car purchase thoroughly.

How to Check for Flood Damage in a Used Vehicle

The most common indication of flood damage is the presence of mold or mildew in the vehicle’s cabin. However, it’s likely that a seller would replace all water-damaged materials. Make sure to pay attention to the vehicle’s upholstery and take note of any inconsistencies. These inconsistencies can be an indication that the car’s interior was taken apart and put back together again. Pay attention to the smell of the vehicle. If mold or rust hits the nose, that’s a red flag. Even if there hasn’t been a recent disaster in the area, dishonest dealers will send vehicles far away to avoid detection of the scam. If any of the car’s electronics work sporadically, this can also be an indication of flood damage. A flooded engine may work at first, but expensive repairs are ahead. Avoid this issue entirely by working with a reputable used car dealership.

Pickup truck swamped by flood water in Humble, Texas,US by Harvey Tropical Storm.


In general, avoid leaky cars. Don’t buy them. Of course, some leaks are more serious than others, but in general, leaks indicate a bigger problem with the vehicle. If the leak is coming from the engine, check the oil. If the oil is low, this may be the problem. If the leak is red, it may be the transmission fluid. Make sure to have the vehicle checked out by a reputable auto repair shop if any leaks are present. Sometimes the leaks are just from an accumulation of moisture due to the car’s air conditioning. However, even “harmless” leaks can eventually degrade hoses and seals. Reputable car dealerships and sellers won’t try to sell a leaky car without informing the consumer. It’s best to run the other way if a leaky vehicle makes its way onto the list, especially if it’s presented as in good condition.


Buyers should be wary of any rust on any potential used car purchases. If that tell-tale orange-brown exists on a vehicle’s exterior, that’s a clear sign the car’s been subjected to the elements for quite a while without regular maintenance. While exterior rust that doesn’t affect the vehicle’s frame is mostly an aesthetic issue, it can also be an indication of more serious problems under the hood.