Florida Used Car Buying Guide

Welcome to our Guide for buying a used car

A Florida Used Car Buying Guide for Florida used car buyers. Don’t get stuck with a Florida Used Car Lemon. Let us be your guide to buying Florida used cars.
Buying a new car or used car? What car is right for you? What do you look for when buying a used car? You may have many questions when it comes to used car buying process. In these articles we will try and answer some of these questions to help you make the used car buying process easier. There are many facts you should consider before buying your next car so you won’t regret your decision later on down the road.

Do as much research as you can about the used car your interested in buying. Read reviews, consumer reports, ask colleagues and friends, compare options, gather gas consumption data on the make and model you’re interested in. Examine reliability ratings. Try to determine maintenance costs and upkeep, etc. Your goal should be to narrow your search to one or two models. Why? Because if you just enter a dealership without knowing what you want, chances are more likely than not that you won’t be happy with your purchase.

Narrow your choice down to only one or two models, because when you test-drive a few different cars of the same model, its much easier for you to compare the condition of each car and pick the one that is the best for the price. Recognizing a transmission problem during your test drive would be easier to do if you were to try a few vehicles of the same model instead of becoming confused by testing out different models.

Florida Used Car Buying Guide for the budget conscious consumer looking to get the best deal on a reliable used car in the Florida.

Tips on buying a reliable used cars and things to observe when buying a used car here in Florida.

Used Car Pre-Purchase Checklist

Use this checklist to evaluate any used car you are considering buying. Following this checklist, assures you will cover all the bases when checking out a vehicle.

Wear old clothes. Bring a rag for handling greasy or dirty items. If desired, also bring clean paper towels and a container of hand-cleaner for cleaning up after performing the inspection.

Other items to bring:

  • flashlight
  • small magnet
  • notepad
  • pen or pencil
  • copy of this checklist


  • If you are meeting a private party to look at a vehicle, try to get there 15 to 20 minutes early. You may discover the vehicle being prepared for your visit.
  • Try to get the seller to set a time for you to see the vehicle when it has been sitting overnight. You want to see how it will start first thing in the morning.
  • Always try to inspect vehicles during the day, when you can see better than at night.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the seller to help or show you something.
  • Take time to perform an inspection to your satisfaction. Don’t hurry or let yourself be rushed.
  • At some point during a test drive, try to drive at 20 to 30 mph beside a solid center median or beside a solid side wall. Open the window halfway and listen for sounds of the vehicle echoed by the hard surface. You should only hear the sound of the tires on the roadway.
  • For practice, inspect a vehicle you already own. Doing so will familiarize you with the process and also provide a reference point for vehicles you are considering for purchase.
Are seams where doors and fenders meet even and straight?
Are seams where the hood and trunk meet the fenders even and straight?
Does a magnet cling to all steel body panels? (Be sure to test fenders, the lower corners of doors, and rocker panels—the areas below doors. If a magnet doesn’t cling, suspect body filler was used to repair rust or accident damage.)
Are all body panels the same color?
Has the car been recently repainted? (Look for signs of spray paint on moldings; also check the edges of the doors, hood, and trunk to be sure they are all the same color. Fresh paint may cover rust that will continue to progress.)
Do all tires have the same amount of tread?
Are all tires the same size? (Check tire size markings on tire sidewalls.)
Are all tires the same brand?
Is there a spare tire, jack, and lug wrench? If the vehicle has locking hubcaps, is there a key for removing them?
Is the spare tire inflated (Press hard against the side with your thumb; the tire should be firm.)
Does the vehicle sit level?
Bounce each corner of the vehicle. Do all corners respond the same? (Corners should only bounce once or twice before stopping.)
Do you hear a creaking noise when bouncing the vehicle’s corners?
Examine inside trunk, wheel wells, and under hood. Do you see areas that look like they have been crumpled and straightened?
Look underneath each side of the vehicle for a row of holes in the frame just inside the vehicle’s outer edge. Do holes appear scratched or recently cleaned? (If so, suspect the frame has been straightened after a crash.)
Gas Cap and Filler Neck
Is there a gas cap? Does it fit correctly? (If the cap locks, is there a key?)
Remove the gas cap and check inside the filler neck. Is there a fuel-nozzle restrictor to prevent adding leaded fuel? (Most states require them.)
Is upholstery in good condition? (Look for tears, stains, and burns.)
Are the dashboard and headliner in good condition?
Do seats adjust easily?
Are any window cranks, door locks, handles, dash controls or similar items missing?
Do all interior lights and dash bulbs work?
Does carpet condition match the age of the vehicle?
Does carpeting smell of mildew or stale water, suggesting moisture underneath (or worse, flood damage)?
Check under the dash at the top of the carpet. Are there stains suggesting heater core or air conditioner leakage?
Do all accessories, such as the heater, air conditioner, audio system, and alarm system, operate fully? Test all functions of each.
Engine Compartment
Are there signs of oil or fluid leaks?
Run the engine at full operating temperature. Are there abnormal smells that might be due to leaking fluids on hot engine parts?
Are there unusual noises, such as clattering or metallic sounds, or sharp hissing, in the engine compartment when the engine is running? (Normal sound is smooth whirring of belts and fan.)
Does anything appear to be missing? (Look for shiny or clean areas where parts may have been removed.)
Under the Vehicle
Are there fluid leaks on the underside of the engine and transmission, at axle ends, at brake line connections, or on the ground beneath the vehicle? Green fluid is usually antifreeze; reddish fluid is usually power steering or transmission fluid; dark brown or black fluid is usually oil or brake fluid.
Are any parts loose, with the exception of exhaust parts slung from flexible rubber “donuts”?
Does anything appear missing, such as bolts, clamps, brackets or cables?
Are exhaust system parts rusty?
Are there marks from scrapes, indicating the car has bottomed out on rocks or pavement?
Examine exhaust when the car is operating at normal temperature. Do you see white or blue smoke? (Both can indicate an engine problem, especially if the smoke burns your eyes. A small amount of steam is normal, especially in cold weather.)
Does the engine start easily?
Does the engine stall at any time?
Does the engine idle smoothly?
Does the idle speed seem too slow or fast?
Does the engine hesitate or stumble on acceleration?
Does the engine run smoothly during operation?
Does the engine seem to lack power?
If the vehicle has cruise control, do all features work correctly?
Do engine or other system warning lights appear?
Does the engine diesel (continue running) when shut off?
Transmission and Clutch
Is automatic shifting smooth?
On a manual-shift vehicle, is take-off smooth, without grabbing or jerking?
On a manual-shift vehicle, accelerate hard in a higher gear (third or fourth) or while going uphill. If engine rpms rise without a corresponding increase in vehicle speed, the clutch could be slipping. It may need to be adjusted or replaced.
On a manual-shift vehicle, try shifting to a lower gear when going slowly. Does the transmission shift easily, without grinding?
4-Wheel Drive
Engage 4-wheel drive only on soft surfaces unless the owner’s manual specifically says the feature can be used on hard-surfaced roads. On a suitable surface, test-drive the vehicle in forward and reverse with 4-wheel drive engaged. Does the vehicle shift smoothly in both directions?
Turn tight corners to the right and left. Are there clunking sounds or other noises?
Do the wheels bind or pull, whether turning or going straight?
Apply the brakes several times at different speeds. Also try a sudden stop. Does the vehicle pull to one side when brakes are applied?
Do brakes stop the vehicle adequately?
If the vehicle has antilock brakes (ABS), try stopping suddenly. Do wheels lock? (A pulsing brake pedal is normal.)
Does the parking brake hold firmly and release completely?
Does the vehicle pull to one side during normal operation?
Is steering difficult at any speed?
Turn sharply in both directions. Do you hear clunking or other noises, or feel rubbing or binding?
Does the vehicle shake or vibrate while moving? (Take the vehicle up to freeway speed for this test.)
Is the steering wheel centered when the vehicle is traveling straight ahead?

Other Concerns

  • Is there evidence of flood damage? By law, this information should be on the title. Signs are upholstery and carpet stains, odor, rust in normally dry areas such as beneath the dashboard and inside the glove compartment, powdery green or white residue inside lowest electrical connectors.
  • Is the owners’ manual in the vehicle? How about the operating instructions for any accessories, and any warranty information that still applies to items like tires and exhaust?
  • Are previous repair and service records available? (Complete records are a sign that the owner has taken good care of the vehicle.)
  • Does seller have clear title to vehicle?

Thanks for using our Florida Used Car Buying Guide for Florida used car buyers. Don’t get stuck with a Florida Used Car Lemon. Let us be your guide to buying Florida used cars.