What to Know Before Selecting and Buying a Used Car

#buying used car

What to Know Before Selecting and Buying a Used Car

March 19, 2014

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When buying a used car, sometimes there are issues with the car that are not able to be seen upon first inspection. The buyer needs to ask the seller if the car has a clean or clear title. A clean title means that there are no major physical issues with the car. Sometimes, the term clear title is also used, but it is most often used to refer to the fact that there is not a financial lien against the car being sold.

It is fairly easy, and very important, to check a car’s title before buying it, to make sure that it is clean and to verify details about the car. This is especially important for older model cars that may have had more than one owner. The most recent owner may not have been fully informed before buying the car himself. Most used cars that are being sold by individuals will not come with a warranty.

Clean Title and Clear Title

A clean title is usually used to refer to any car that passes inspection without having any serious physical issues. This ensures a higher quality car, when all the other features are also taken into consideration. A clear title is usually used to describe a financial lien that has been placed on a car. Some people use the terms interchangeably, so be sure to check which definition is meant by the seller. If a lien has been placed on a car, it would mean that any additional cost would be included in the price of the car. Optimally, a car should have both a clear and a clean title.

Using CARFAX to Research a Car

By using the service CARFAX, it helps someone who is shopping for a car to know almost everything about that car. Simply enter the VIN for the car, and the system will find all the recorded information about the car. The CARFAX report tells how many owners a car has had, and it shows the mileage that has been recorded when the car has been sold. It also shares any problems with the car, such as if it has been in an accident or flood, or if the car has been driven above or below the average mileage for a car of the same age. The report makes it easy to see the history of the car at a glance and if the value of the car lines up with what the seller is asking for the car.

Using the Kelley Blue Book to Confirm the Value of a Car

Another important aspect to consider when buying a car, in addition to a clean title, would be making sure that the asking price of a car matches up, within reason, to the value of the car. One useful tool for determining that is the Kelley Blue Book. The condition of the car, mileage, and other factors will determine the price of the car. As long as the car has a clean title, and the Blue Book value is fair, then it will help to negotiate the price.

Reasons a Car Would Not Have a Clean Title

There are multiple reasons why a car would not have a clean title. Many of these are things that are not immediately visible to a casual inspection. In addition to having a trusted mechanic inspect any car that is being considered for purchase, it is important to verify that the car has a clean title. A CARFAX report will list all recorded physical damage to the car.

Not having a clean title does not make a sale impossible. As long as the buyer is aware of the issues, and the price is fair, the sale can be finalized. Many people buy cars without a clean title for the specific purpose of rebuilding cars or for parts. Even after it is rebuilt, it will retain a non-clean title, but it can be resold at a higher price later.

Rebuilt or Reconstructed

If a car has been rebuilt or reconstructed, that means it will have had a salvage title. While this may still be a good car to buy, it is not a clean title. Depending on the work done, and the price being asked, a rebuilt car is often in better shape than a car of the same year that has not had work done. The value of a rebuild can be higher, if better parts or better quality paint were used in the work.

Salvage or Junk

A salvage, or junk title, is assigned to a car that has been in an accident and is cost prohibitive to being fixed. It is often referred to as totaled, even though the car is sometimes still drivable. If the car requires repairs that cost more than three-fourths of the car’s original value, it qualifies for the salvage title. Any car that has a salvage or junk title does not qualify for a clean title.

Hail Damage

Hail damage is another issue that can prevent a car from having a clean title. Hail damage could be repaired cosmetically, by taking out the dents and repainting it, and might not be noticeable. However, the metal would be weakened and prone to being damaged easily again. There is no engine damage, normally, when a car has sustained hail damage.

Flood Damage

A car that has been damaged by flood water also will not have a clean title. This damage is a little harder to notice; however, it is probably one of the more problematic. It may not make visible damage to the car if cleaned up before it starts to rust. The engine would take a lot of work to repair and would be costly. It can also cause mold issues behind the dashboard and problems with the electrical systems. If an older car has new upholstery in the interior, it may be an indication that it was in a flood. Flood damage is more prevalent in coastal areas, as well as along rivers. It is a good idea to check the location that is listed on the title to see if it originates from an area that is prone to flooding.

Fire Damage

Fire damage to a car can also be fixed, but there may be some damage that is not noticed in the wiring system. It could cause serious problems in the future. The damage to the car itself is obvious; paint will not stick to the metal once it has been burned, so parts will have to be replaced. If there was fire damage, similar to flood damage, new upholstery would be an indication that there was damaged interior that had to be replaced.

Not Accurate Mileage

The mileage of a car is one of the factors that will determine the value of the car. It is important that the mileage be accurate so that the buyer gets a fair price. It is illegal to physically change the mileage of a car. One instance where the mileage can change on a car would be if the instrument cluster was changed. In order to still get a clean title, it must be noted in the title that it has been changed.

How to Buy a Car on eBay Motors With a Clean Title

When searching for a car on eBay Motors. it is good to add the word “clean title ” to the search. If the seller has certified the car as having a clean title, it will show up in the search and help narrow down the search. There are different makes and models of cars and trucks available, so it is also helpful to add a year or other feature to help find the best car for your needs.

Getting to Know the Seller

When investing in a car, it is important to know the reputation of the seller. Top-rated Sellers on eBay Motors help ensure a better transaction. Reading the feedback that has been left by other buyers also helps to make a good choice. There may not be much feedback, unless the seller is a dealer, so what feedback is there is even more important to read over carefully.


When buying cars, knowing the value of the car is only one part of purchasing the car. It is also important to check for a clean title. By knowing that a car has a clean title, there are fewer potential problems in the future. Many of the problems that cause issues, that would make a clean title impossible, are often hard to see on first inspection of the car. Using the CARFAX report will confirm that the listing of a car with a clean title does indeed have a clean title.

Some people want to buy a car without a clean title for parts or to rebuild for recreational purposes, like drag racing, so knowing that the title is not clean may allow the buyer to negotiate the price. The Kelley Blue Book listing will allow the negotiations to go easier.

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