Thanks to We Buy Cars for this guest post. We Buy Cars has been buying used and junk cars for cash for over 30 years.

Buying a car should be a simple and enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, there is a process to it and if the right steps aren’t taken you could end up on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. Let’s start with what you should do before you head out to the lot.

Doing your research ahead of time on the vehicle you’re eyeing is a MUST. While a cherry red sport coupe may be catching your attention, a simple online search can tell you a different story. Car forums often contain posts by actual owners, and they give the best reviews and can even clue you in on common issues with the vehicle.

Did you find a car that you want to check out in person and test-drive? If you’re buying from a private seller, ask to take the car to a trusted mechanic for an inspection. If it’s a dealership they’ll be more hesitant. Go over these points and use this as your inspection check list:

  • Start the engine when it’s completely cold. Some cars are harder to start when they are dead cold and, when doing so, will reveal chronic problems.
  • Check the tires for uneven tire wear. Balding on the sides or in the middle could indicate the need for a front-end alignment or a more costly suspension repair.
  • Check for body work. Stand away from the vehicle and look at its panels and seams. Does everything line up correctly? A refrigerator magnet will find spots where plastic filler was used.
  • Check if the car was repainted. Open the trunk, hood and doors and look for over-spray or spots where the colors don’t match with the rest of the car.
  • Check the radiator fluid. If the fluid is foamy or has oil droplets in it, most likely there is a defective head gasket. Worst case scenario there could be a cracked block or cylinder head.

Once you head out for the test drive, evaluate these points:

  • Acceleration from a complete stop
  • Unusual engine noises?
  • Passing acceleration (How does it shift?)
  • Hill-climbing power
  • Braking
  • Cornering
  • Suspension (How does it ride?)
  • Rattles and squeaks

To dive in deeper into the vehicles history, write down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) which is located on the driver’s-side door pillar. This number will allow you to check the title through and get details on any past accidents, flood damage, odometer issues and any other major problems.

Your fastest and easiest way to go is with a certified pre-owned vehicle. These cars get a full inspection and usually come with a type of warranty. This peace of mind does come with a higher price tag, but it is worth it. These steps will not only get you in the car you want, but one that should last you for a while.