Sometimes the excitement of buying a new car can get in the way of good decision making. First rule of looking for a new car is to go shopping during the day. Its hard to get a good look at all the dents, dings, scratches, and blemishes the vehicle may have when its dark out. It also can be hard to tell how well a car has been maintained when its dark out. It can even be harder when buying a vehicle from a car lot or dealership as they tend to cover these things up with a full detail. Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground and look underneath the vehicle. While most dealerships have the engine detailed, most do not detail under the car. If there are visible oil leaks or rust under the vehicle, this is a red flag. Make sure to test all components such as A/C operation, power door locks, power windows, ect.
Once you have decided that you really like the vehicle and you have eliminated any obvious red flags, take the vehicle to a repair shop and have a pre-purchase inspection done. Prices can range from $80-$200 but is well worth the investment. They can check to make sure major components such as the engine and transmission are performing properly. Also they can make sure the check engine light hasn't recently been cleared so the light doesn't pop on the day after you purchase the vehicle. Sellers have been known to clear codes prior to purchases to hide malfunctions with sensors or computers in the vehicle.
The last thing you want after spending the money on a new vehicle is to have to spend more money on it to be repaired. I don’t know how many people have come to me to check out their new used vehicle RIGHT AFTER they already made the purchase only to find out they bought a lemon. Plus many times a vehicle inspection can be used as a leverage tool to negotiate pricing if small issues are found with the vehicle.
Ultimately there is always some risk taken when purchasing a used vehicle but having the knowledge on what to look for and taking the right precautions can help you greatly lessen the chances of you purchasing a problem vehicle.