So, you’ve settled that all-important question of whether to buy a new or used car. Buying used can be a great way to get on the road without the hefty price tag of a new vehicle.

1. Vehicle history

Get as much information as you can from the current owner and then do your own research. Running the VIN (vehicle identification number) through a paid service like CARFAX will tell you if the car has been in an accident, if there are any liens on it, and if there are any recalls on the model.

2. Rust or paint damage

Take a walk around the car and keep an eye out for any rusty spots or paint chips. Small, localized rust patches aren’t necessarily a deal breaker because they can be fixed easily. If there are places where the metal is totally rusted through, you might want to reconsider the purchase.

3. Frame issues

While you’re walking around the vehicle, you should also look for problems with the frame. Is the car sitting level on the ground? Is there anything hanging from the undercarriage? Pay close attention to the bumpers and look inside the trunk and hood for new bolts or warping that could indicate a recent accident.

4. Under the hood

The engine is the most important part of any vehicle. With the car turned off, pop the hood and visually inspect the engine for: fluid leaks, corrosion and cracked hoses and belts. Check the oil and transmission dipsticks for discoloration — oil should be light brown; transmission fluid should be pink or red.

5. Tire condition

The tire tread should be worn evenly and all four should match. Uneven tread or extra wear on a few of the tires often means poor alignment, which can be a symptom of steering, suspension or frame issues. A poorly aligned car will pull to the right or left when driving.

6. Mileage

The average car will rack up about 20,000 km each year. To figure out if the car you’re looking at has high or low mileage, divide the number on the odometer by the vehicle’s age. A car with high mileage with have more wear and tear on its mechanical components. Find out more about why high mileage matters when buying a used car.

7. Interior electronics

Blasting the radio when your favorite song comes on is one of the little joys of car ownership. Press some buttons and make sure the stereo and the other electronic components in the cockpit are working properly. Turn on the air conditioning and heat as well.

If you have more questions on what you should be looking for when purchasing your first used vehicle, give us a call at Bob Workmans European.