Buying from a used car dealer can be a daunting process. There is always a certain amount of mistrust and skepticism involved in the process of buying a car that has already been driven by a previous owner—or in some cases by multiple previous owners. 

However, that doesn’t mean that buying a used car has to be stressful. It’s just important to be smart about your car-buying process and learn the ins and outs of any used car before you agree to buy it. 

If you’re in the market for a new-to-you car, first read these 5 things you absolutely need to consider before you buy a used car. 

  1. The Car’s Reputation 

One of the great things about buying a used car is that any used car you buy is likely already a few years old. That means that the reputation of any used model you’re considering buying is probably already pretty well-established—whereas the average new car hasn’t been on the market long enough to develop a concrete reputation before you buy it. 

When you buy a used car, it is important to do some research on that car’s reputation. Some cars that look great, seem to drive well, and check off every box on the list of features you want in a car end up having flaws that are difficult to overcome—like certain parts and systems that tend to malfunction and require expensive repairs or replacements after a short period of time. That’s why it’s so important to do thorough research on a used car’s critical reputation before you make your purchase. 

  1. Your Lifestyle 

When shopping for a used car, it is important to consider your lifestyle and how that car will accommodate it. Practicality should be at the top of your list of priorities for any new-to-you car. The best car for you isn’t always the flashiest model or the model with the fanciest features and amenities—even if that flashy, amenity-heavy model is technically within your budget. 

In the long run, you’ll appreciate a car that accommodates your lifestyle and meets the practical needs of your daily life over a car that is flashy on the outside or has a lot of high-tech features you probably won’t actually end up using all that often. 

  1. The Car’s Vehicle History Report 

Before you buy a used car, one of the most important things to do is to check that car’s vehicle history report. Every car has a VIN number that identifies it and distinguishes it from other cars. You can run the VIN number of virtually any car through one of many available online services to get a full vehicle history report on that car. 

That vehicle history report will tell you important information, such as whether or not a certain car has been involved in any previous accidents, whether or not there is a lien on that car, and even how many previous owners the car has had in the past. All of that information—and the other information a vehicle history report tells you—is important to know before you make a used car yours. 

  1. How the Car Drives 

Always, always test drive a car before you buy it. That goes for any car, whether it’s new or used, but test-driving a used car is especially crucial. You might love how a car looks on the outside and the inside, but you won’t really know how it feels to drive it on a real road until you take it for a test drive. 

Seeing as the primary purpose of any car is to drive, learning how a car runs and performs on the road before you buy it is very important. If at all possible, take the car on the highway or freeway during your test drive to see how it performs at higher speeds—especially if you’re a commuter or other frequent freeway driver. 

  1. The Inspection Results 

One of the most important things to do before buying from a used car dealer is to hire a professional mechanic to inspect the car inside and out. It doesn’t matter how much you know about cars. Unless you are a trained, professional mechanic, it is very easy to overlook certain flaws and problems with a car that might come back to haunt you in the future. 

Hiring a professional mechanic to perform a thorough inspection on any used car you’re considering buying is never a waste of money. If the inspection comes out clean, you’re good to go. If it uncovers some previously-unknown problems, you’ll be happy you had the inspection done before you made your purchase rather than waiting until you’re stuck with the car to get it properly checked out inside and out. 

If you’re in the market for a pre-owned car, use these 5 tips to guide your car-buying process and get you on the right track toward a successful purchase when buying from a used car dealer