Used Car Salesman

27 Things You Must Know Before Buying Used Cars

In car lingo, a “cream puff” is a pre-owned vehicle in exceptional condition. Although rare, it’s easy to spot these by the attention given by the previous owner. The inside is well kept, the engine was maintained, the miles are low, and even the price is right.

Dealerships and shoppers alike love these. They generate a lot of inquires for the sales staff and the customer is satisfied, knowing they have a rare gem in a sea of used iron. It takes a little determination and patience to locate a cream puff, but it’s not too terribly hard.

It can be done.

Allow me to share some perspective from top performing dealership representatives plus a 27 point check list, condensed into an easy infographic, courtesy of our friends at Rawhide.

And then, you won’t have to deal with this guy . . .


The best way to clear the clutter of information, when searching for a pre-owned car, is to actively test drive each one you are considering. On paper, there are many “cream puffs,” and while everything I mentioned above applies, the real distinction comes in the test drive.

Justin Welch is a Cadillac Sales Consultant at Luxury Auto Mall of Sioux Falls, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In just two years, Welch established himself as one of the most honest in the business, putting direct emphasis on working for his clients and building relationships with them. He believes, in order to have the best shopping experience, a test drive is vital.

“It is important to test drive any vehicle to make sure it’s right for you,” Welch said. “It’s a purchase that you want to make for you and your family and test driving is a way to inspect the vehicle.”

Welch is a big proponent of having the vehicle you are considering checked out ahead of time.

“I know there are people who don’t know much about cars so I make sure they take it to someone to have them check it out if they need,” Welch said. “If the dealer doesn’t let you take the vehicle to anyone, its a big red flag and that probably answers your question.”

LAM_Sioux Falls_Service Shop

Brandon Grade is a Service Advisor at Findlay Toyota in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the largest Toyota dealerships in the western United States. Grade has a special talent for guiding customers through the maintenance intervals associated with automobile ownership. He has gotten out of the shop on a few occasions, as recently as last year, participating in a major dealer training program for Ford Motor Company.

“I have told my customers to bring me cars they were looking at purchasing so we can inspect them,” Grade said. “Used cars can look good but still have problems that could be expensive to fix.”

Another point to consider when purchasing a pre-owned car – and it might seem obvious, even a little silly – but it was never yours. Ever. All the more reason to make sure the pre-owned vehicle you are considering checks out from a maintenance standpoint.

“You aren’t the one who is putting all the miles on it from new so you don’t really know how it was treated or serviced,” Grade said. “That’s why the pre-purchase inspection is important so have a reputable shop or dealer inspect it.”

Asking for service records is a good idea and an honorable dealership will present those, if they have them. It’s also wise to consider future repairs.

“I have a lot people call and ask what maintenance costs are and what the most common repairs are for the vehicle they are interested in,” Grade said.

A pre-owned car with a certified warranty will lend some peace of mind too and there are always options to extend warranties.

“Personally, I would try and steer customers towards a certified, pre-owned vehicle that comes with a warranty, or have them price an extended warranty out before purchasing the car,” Grade said.

Car Sales

For every good dealership, there are bad apples. I hate to say that as both a believer in and advocate for the automotive industry, but it’s true. As Welch has seen too, it’s hit or miss and it’s important to know that ahead of time.

“Some dealers don’t offer a warranty on used cars or a return policy; some dealers are really great with their inspection process before putting the car on the lot and some don’t care at all,” he said.

And beware the line you sometimes get in high pressure sales zones of, “you can’t afford to pass this car up” or “this is our best deal all month.” Whatever variation, utilize your spidey sense.

“If it seems too good to be true, there’s most likely something wrong so stay away,” Grade said.

However, it’s not all bad and just like it might take a little digging to find that perfect, pre-owned car, so too it might for the right dealership. They do exist.

“Even though it’s used, we want to make the car as new as possible for customers,” Welch said. “There are times when a vehicle will make some noise but we get it back to the shop and fix it because we don’t want to give a customer a bad experience.”


The car buying process is not always easy and if you need additional insight, please contact me here. I will be happy help.

Rawhide, who supplied the checklist below, is a wonderful resource too. Their car tips section features some great articles, one that highlights the advantages of used cars over new.

Sooner or later, that cream puff car will end up in your driveway.  Sooner or later, you will find the right dealership, with the right staff, who will sell it to you.

“I have seen almost every side of the automotive field but I’ve always been drawn back to service advising for reasons like this,” Grade said.

*Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of and resides in Detroit, Michigan.  

What-to-check-when-buying-a-used-car #3

  1. I just bought a used car last summer, and I sure wish I would’ve seen this before I did! Live and learn, I suppose…

  2. That is a very informative article. I like that you put special attention to the tire wear which I also think it is quite important. There are many small factors which I think are well described here that influence the choice. Moreover, many people have a nice detailed car which they are selling. To have a car which is not only in good condition, but also looks good definitely pushes the prices up. Personally I prefer to detail a car myself (since I am a car detailer). I have also seen many people getting fooled by that. I think it could be a good trick to gain sales. On the other hand, do not necessarily buy a car just because it looks bad. Be smart about it.
    Might be a bit of dumb trick and many people know it already by common sense, but I actually think it is what is happening in todays world

  3. Really great list you have generated. I will have to use this since I am on the hunt for a car as I just moved to a new area. I also like the idea of checking the tires. It can be a costly investment on a “new to you” car.

  4. Some really important information given by you about how we purchase a used car. When you test drive a used car, then check that the brakes and clutch function smoothly and effectively. Plus do a three-point turn to check for play in the steering. When it comes to purchasing an extended warranty purchased it from good warranty
    company like Warrantech .

  5. Important information about the past of a used car. Records from the Department of Motor Vehicles of each state, as well as reports on general collection and insurance against accidents and insurance cases.

  6. 27 points seems like a daunting checklist but there’s some excellent insights and it’s a good resource for anyone starting the search for a quality used car.

  7. Thanks for the advice about having someone inspect the used car because you don’t know how or when it was serviced. I’m tired of using public transit to get from my apartment to the university, but I can’t afford a new vehicle. If I get a used car that’s been inspected, maybe I won’t have to spend as much on maintenance for it in the future.

  8. Buying a used car is a smart financial move. Whether we are buying from a dealership or from a private seller, we have to acquire some knowledge to help us to make a more informed decision. We should define what we want & perform a research. First we should decide our budget according to how much we can afford for a car. Then we should search for cars over the internet matching our budget. We must bring a mechanic to inspect different parts of the car while buying a used car. The exhaust system & frame of the car must be examined. Car glasses must be inspected. The hoses & the belts must be checked. We must check the engine if it has any leak,corrosion etc.

  9. I liked the term you used, “cream puffs.” I also agree the real distinction comes in the test drive. This is the most important basis on which you can decide, whether to buy it or not.

  10. I’ve been in the car business for over 30 years ( ASE Master Tech Level ) . We always joke (and are always right), that when “CREAMPUFF” is used to describe a vehicle, it’s a pile of crap that just looks nice on the surface. I intentional look for car ads that use “CREAMPUFF” in the description just to pick them apart ( the whole reason I stumbled onto this article ). Never buy a car that is described as a “CREAMPUFF”.

Comments are closed.