Pre-Owned Car

What to Check Before Buying a Pre-Owned Car

With the price of new automobiles soaring higher by the day, you might have a better chance at maximizing the benefits of having a vehicle of your own by purchasing CPO or certified pre-owned cars. This kind of used car is virtually as good as the brand-new ones, except it comes with a lower price tag.

CPO vehicles are refurbished and inspected to meet the standards or surpass typical conditions for models with the same make and year. Aside from updates to its features, most CPO cars also come with extended warranties in service, which is why their price tag is a bit higher than that of other used cars.

Although there’s very little chance that you can go wrong with certified used cars, knowing what to check before buying CPO cars is still better than knowing nothing before the actual purchase.

Here are three essential things you need to research first:

1.   Fair Market Price

In order to avoid paying more than you should, it is imperative that you find out the fair market price of the vehicle you wish to purchase.

First, determine the model, year, and make of the car and how far it has run during its lifetime (mileage). Then, research possible used car prices online to get an idea of a ballpark price for the vehicle you want to purchase.

2.   Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) serves as the automobile’s fingerprint as there are no two cars that have the same VIN. This 17-digit number located on the dashboard, under the hood, on the front end of the frame, or on the driver side of the door can tell you a lot of things about the car, including:

  • Its country of origin
  • The vehicle manufacturer
  • The car type or division
  • Its brand, body type, model, series, and engine size and/or type
  • The model year
  • Security check
  • The assembly plant
  • Its serial number

Knowing this information can also help you check whether the car is covered by insurance, the vehicle’s history, and whether it has the proper title and registration.

3.   Pre-Purchase Inspection Result

Another thing you should have a record of before closing a used car deal is the overall condition of the vehicle. To do this, you need to have the car inspected by a licensed mechanic before the purchase.

The result of the pre-purchase inspection should include details such as:

–         The Exterior and Interior Condition

Some certified pre-owned vehicles have gone through more than your average rough driver, but this isn’t the reason why you need to check the status of the car’s exterior – it’s to see whether the damage has been repaired expertly.

Look out for dents, scratches, and rust on the body and see if the paint is even on each side of the vehicle and whether there are rough areas on the sides. The doors should also be checked to see if they aren’t loose along the hinges, which would indicate frequent and long-term use.

As for the interior, opening the door and checking for unpleasant odors is a good start. If it smells quite moldy, then you probably have a water leak somewhere in the vehicle. Looking for wet spots and staining can help you pinpoint the source of moisture. Also, look if all the door panels and side pillar claddings are having smooth lines or have been removed and rectified after repairs.

–         Tires and Suspension

Tires and suspension are two parts of a vehicle that often show signs of wear and tear from frequent, long use. To see if the car is relatively young, the inspector should check the amount and consistency of wear across the tread of the tires on both sides.

If the drive tires have more severe signs of wear, then it means they weren’t rotated regularly by the previous owner. Other rough drivers tend to wear down the tires, too. Also, look for hairline cracks on tires. This shows that they are coming towards the replacement time.

Test Drive Before You Buy

Lastly, before finalizing your purchase of a certified pre-owned vehicle, it is important that you take it for a test drive first. This will not only help you check the condition of the car first-hand, but it will also allow you to assess your resolve in making the purchase. After all, you’re making a significant investment when you buy a car.


Mahesh Rohra is the Director of Arabian Automobiles LLC – AW Rostamani Automotive Group, a trailblazer in the automotive fraternity with a legacy of over 50 years. AUTOTRUST by AW Rostamani is the largest automotive multi-brand one-stop shop in the UAE where you can buy and sell quality pre-owned cars.