as of June 13, 2024 we are now featuring 'bonus bucks'

What To Watch for When Buying a Used Vehicle in Florida?

by | Oct 22, 2022 | buy car, how to sell your car, offermore | 0 comments

Aside from the fact that you are not buying a vehicle right out of the factory, getting a used car is very different from getting a brand-new vehicle. Most used cars for sale are available ‘as is’, which means that what you see is what you get. If you buy a used car with rotting tires, a rusted body, dead battery, and broken door locks, that’s what you’re getting. Some issues are easy to spot while others may only present themselves long after purchase.  Hence, give this article a read and learn about what to look for when buying a used car in the state of Florida.

You don’t get similar protections you’d find when buying brand new if purchasing a used cars. As such, the general rule is always to careful and buy smart. If possible, bring a mechanic with you or get someone who knows their way with vehicles. Inspect the car and report whatever potential issues you may find. Sometimes, you can use these issues to negotiate, but these could also be a dealbreaker.

As opposed to many brand new dealership warrenties, when buying used, there is no period which allows you to return the vehicle without penalty and cancel the sales agreement in Florida. So, once you sign the documents, the sale is considered final.  Florida does have the “Lemon Law” however it is very difficult to meet the requirements to quality to claim a car as a “lemon”. So, in this article, we will give you some tips on what things to remember when buying a used car.


Do Your Research

If you are not that familiar with cars, doing your research should be the first step. You can check online sources or visit a local bookstore or library to look for reference materials about various car brands and models and comparative costs. From these, you should have an idea of what kind of used vehicle you want to buy.

The next thing is to research where you can get pre-approved for financing. If you don’t have enough cash to buy that car, you’ll need an auto loan. When you get pre-approved, you’ll know how much you can spend and how much negotiating power you have once you talk to the dealer.

You should also look at websites like to get reliable ideas on the current market price of used vehicles. If possible, go for Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, as those come with an extended warranty.

Next, you should decide if you’re buying from a private seller or a dealer. If you prefer the latter, be prepared to make a comparison with the nearest dealers and check out their reviews. Places like Yelp and Google are where you can read reviews and testimonials from past clients. You should also check their customer service history from the Better Business Bureau.


Get A Vehicle History Report

Once you’ve decided where to buy your vehicle and which one to get, get a vehicle history report. Ask the dealer or seller to give you either an AutoCheck or CARFAX report. This report contains odometer logs, airbag deployments, and collision history.

In addition, make sure to inspect the physical state of the vehicle – including both the exterior and interior. Check the doors and fenders for cracks or chipped paint. Note all the wear and tear and check for any sign of water damage. You should also take the vehicle for a few spins and a test drive. Most experts advise that you test drive the vehicle cold to reveal any hidden issue.


Do Not Buy Vehicles with Rebuilt Title

What is a rebuilt title? This is a salvage title issued to a used vehicle after being rehabilitated. In some cases, there’s nothing wrong with buying a rebuilt title, but you have to be extra careful. These vehicles were salvaged from extensive collision damage, water damage, or fire damage. Some are manufacturer buyback after lemon-law claims.

Since a rebuilt title is one that’s been salvaged from previous damage, you might have more work to deal with compared to the average used car. You might even need to spend more money on repairs and maintenance. Hence, it’s better to steer clear of this as much as possible.


Inspect and Test Drive

Buying a used vehicle doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. You will find high-quality used cars that can still perform like new if you know where to look. So, you must inspect and test drive the vehicle you are planning to buy to see how well it performs.

You should test drive the vehicle on a highway and check for any odd vibrations and noises. Check for any possible issues like thick smoke coming from the exhaust or any other performance-related problems that might result in extensive repairs in the future.


Market Flooded with Water-Damaged Cars

Thanks to the devastating hurricane Ian which nailed south-west Florida this past September, we have notices a huge influx of cars on the market with water damage.  When looking at used cars in Florida especially, be sure to check for water damage.

How to spot flood damage

  • Odors: The easiest way to catch flood damage is the odor it causes.  As water sits and pools inside the compartments of the car it often creates mold and mildew.  Be sure to turn on and run the air conditioner as the vent system is a common area of mold buildup.  If the car is filled with air fresheners, remove them, put all the windows down, drive the car and then park it in the sun for a bit with the windows up.  Then re-test for any odd smells.  If there’s a smell that simply doesn’t smell good, there’s a strong chance the cause is mold regardless of what the salesperson tries to explain.
  • Vehicle history report:  If the car was totaled by the insurance company, the vehicle history report will make a note of this.  Such cars will also have rebuilt titles which we would advise against buying in general.
  • Discolored upholstery and carpet:  If the carpet looks as though the color isn’t right, it’s likely due to water damage.  However, this discoloration may be hard to spot as the entirety of the carpet may have been affected.  If the carpet or upholstery is new, it may have been replaced due to the damage.
  • Foggy Lights:  If the car sat in water for a while the head and tail lights which cause the water within to fog up.  On the flip side, used cars are notorious for old seals on the lights causing fog issues.
  • Rust:  If the car was just recently flooded there likely won’t be rust damage yet, however it’s certainly a huge red flag if found.  Common areas to find rust are within the door jams and under the hood on certain elements of the engine.
  • Sand and dirt build-up: This especially is true for the most recent hurricane Ian flooded cars as a great deal of sand and dirt was mixed in with the flood water.  As this water drains, the dirt and sand is often left behind.  Check under the wheel well where there is a lip likely to pool with water.  If you find a great deal of sand or dirt build-up or small piles, it’s a strong indication the car has sat in flood water.
  • Electrical Issues: Double-check all the vehicle’s lights and interior functions.



Various consumer protection statutes in Florida will protect you from illegal and unethical business practices. However, thousands of buyers report horrible outcomes each year from buying used vehicles in Pinellas County and surrounding Florida areas. Hence, ensuring that you get what your money’s worth falls solely upon you. As such, always be vigilant and beware of offers that are too good to be true.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 × three =