Run for the Hills If You Encounter Any of These Car-Buying Red Flags

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Buying a car, especially a used car, can be a tricky thing. There are a lot of things to consider, chief among them how you’re going to maintain it. If the previous owner was crap at maintaining the car, what sort of headaches are you going to get hit with? Here’s how to dodge that bullet up front.


Last week, I asked you guys to identify some red flags that keep you from pulling the trigger on a car. Some of them are more obvious than others, but I think together, as a community, we were able to narrow them down to the most useful ones.

I remember we once went to go check out a car—a yellow B5-generation Audi S4—after seeing it listed online. Upon showing up at the dealership, we were taken out for a “test drive” where only the salesman drove the car. We were not permitted to drive it, and he seemed surprised when we asked for a go behind the wheel.

Needless to say, we left the car and that dealership without looking back.

And now it’s your turn. These are the red flags you have identified.

“Never Used to Plow” (NameIwillRegret)

Yeah okay, buddy. That’s totally not mounting hardware, right?

Pre-Purchase Inspection (TheFoeYouKnow)

It costs a little but pays off big.


Assholes (Nlinesk8)

If the owner is an asshole, generally you don’t want to do business with them.


Smog Testing (the_AUGHT)

You’d be giving yourself a lot of trouble.


“Never Raced” (Yes I drive a 240... Sort of)

Oh, so that LS swap is just for show, then?


Flood Damage (Dake)

There were a lot of floods recently! Be careful of those.


Cold Start (daiheadjai)

Cold starts can tell you a lot about a car.


Sketchy Seller (51xtyF0ur)

There’s no reason why they need to meet you only at night.


The Driven Tires (Rusty Starship)

Tread wear should be consistent.


Lazy Ads (hoser68)

If they have put in no effort to write up a good ad....


Look Around (RedLeader289)

Check for those visual inconsistencies.


Lost Title (OtisHoyt)

No deal, then.


“Simple Fix” (skeffles)

If it was so simple, then the seller would have fixed it already!


Odometer (Kyree S. Williams)

Make sure all of those numbers match up.



Big one I’ve noticed is pics where the front wheels are turned like they’re halfway through turning the corner but are just parked in the driveway. If they parked it like that, they’re trying to hide alignment and other steering/suspension-related issues.

Contrary to one of the things posted here, I have never put a repair receipt in the glovebox in 20 years of driving. The thought would never occur to me. It goes on the seat until I get home, then goes into the desk. At some point, the desk gets cleaned out and the receipt goes into the car’s file.

Seriously, what kind of savages are just shoving slips into their glovebox?  Odd.