43 Step Used Car Buying Checklist

Before buying your next used car in Santa Barbara, read below:

We love our cars here in sunny California. We drive them to our great beaches, take road trips to interesting destinations, and use them for our everyday family activities. Like most people, you need and deserve a car that runs well and keeps driver and passengers safe. For most new car purchases, you are protected by “lemon laws” that help make sure you get a quality vehicle. But what happens when you buy a used car in Santa Barbara? In most cases, you are on your own when it comes to making sure you get a quality ride.

Many people make the decision to buy a used car every year. Often they choose used over new due to financial reasons, but that doesn’t mean they expect anything less in their new ride.

According to PolicyAdvice.net, in fact, 40.42 million used cars were sold in 2018, compared to just 17.21 million new vehicles. That’s a huge percentage of car sales that are used cars, so you’d think we’d have it right by now. But, according to the number of cases you see on court television about used car purchases, many people are shocked (Shocked!) to find that their purchase just doesn’t live up to their expectations.

These unlucky litigants think they will find some measure of sympathy and protection in the courts. But, what they don’t realize is that most used cars are sold on an “as is” basis, unless there is a written warranty provided by the seller. There is no “lemon law” that applies to used cars in the majority of the states!

While there might be a bit of protection if you buy a used car from a dealer, you are really exposed if you choose to buy from a private person. Tips for adding a bit more confidence to your used car purchase include:

  • Check the History: Do what you can to first get a vehicle history report. Use a resource like Carfax to get a reliable history and find out whether your potential auto purchase has been in an accident.
  • Get a Clear Title: If anything sounds hinky about the title, it’s best to walk away. If they don’t have it, won’t sign it, or the title says “salvage,” you could be buying trouble and losing money.
  • Get it in Writing: How many court cases have you seen where the plaintiff tries to tell the judge what the seller said? If any warranties or guarantees are made, get it in writing!
  • Know Your Pricing: Don’t just take the seller’s word for it that you are getting a good deal. Do your research to find reasonable prices for a car of this age in this condition. If the price is too high, or too good to be true, those should be a warning sign to you.

If everything checks out, then it is time to start thinking about buying this used car, but you still have a lot of work to do. You want to make sure the car itself is good, but how do you do that? You might want to have a mechanic give the car a once over, but there are steps you can take yourself.

Precision Auto Body & Painting, your local auto body repair shop, is here to give you the help you need to make the best decisions when it comes to buying a used car in Santa Barbara.

Help Is Here with the Precision Auto Body 43 Step Used Car Buying Checklist

When John and Martha Peterson opened Precision Auto Body & Painting in 1987 as a local auto body repair center, our mission was to provide the best auto body repair, along with world-class service. Today, we are proud to be the premier collision repair facility in Santa Barbara County, and we want to continue to provide customers with in-depth information on car ownership.

One area customers often ask us about is how they can find the best used cars in Santa Barbara. That’s why we decided to create an easy-to-understand infographic you can use to get the most out of your used car purchase. Here is what you will find in this used car buying checklist:

  • 43 Steps! Buying a used car should not be based on emotion; it should be based on logic. Here are 43 logical steps you can take to make sure you’re not getting a lemon of a deal. We’ve graded each with color-coded ease to let you know if something is acceptable, negotiable, a deal breaker or non-negotiable.
  • The Basics: These are the ABCs of used car purchases. While you can function fine by finding an owner’s manual online, you’ve got to beware of possible mileage inconsistencies.
  • Auto Body and Paint Damage: We all want a car that looks great, but what does that exactly mean? Items 4-11 on our checklist give you an idea of what is acceptable in an auto body – and what is not.
  • Interior Condition: The interior is also a good indicator of how well the car was cared for by previous drivers. You might expect normal wear and tear on the seats, but if there is water damage or a moldy smell, your car might have been in a flood.
  • Chassis and Underbody: Here are some of our insider tips that will give you clues as to whether this vehicle might have bigger problems than what you can see.
  • Engine: A car that doesn’t run is just a piece of junk in your driveway. Items 29-39 cover all points of potential engine problems, including three that are definite “No Go” items.
  • Test Drive: Only after you are comfortable with the car itself is it time to take it for a spin. Don’t get all caught up in the fun of the drive. Pay attention to how the car is performing, and look for signs of potential trouble.

Use these 43 points to evaluate your next used car purchase.  If there are one or more non-negotiable items, consider yourself lucky that you dodged a bullet. Don’t rush into a used car purchase without the knowledge you need to make an informed choice. Follow the used car buying checklist below and buy with confidence.

43 STEP Used Car Buying Checklist

About Precision Auto Body & Painting: Located at 57 S Fairview Avenue in Goleta, Precision Auto Body & Painting is Santa Barbara’s premier collision repair facility. Consistently voted as “Best Auto Body and Paint Shop” by Santa Barbara News-Press readers, we are a certified local auto body repair shop. Visit our website at Since 1987, Auto Body Repair Shop In Santa Barbara – (805) 683-4711 (precisionab.com) to learn more about auto body repair and car painting, or call 805-683-4711 to set an appointment for a full-service collision repair estimate. Like us on Facebook to receive tips and insider information on auto body repair and maintenance.

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