Thinking of buying a used car? Do not let the reduced figure on the price tag dupe you into making a not-so-smart choice. Remember, a car should transport you and also serve your needs in the long-term. Therefore, check and recheck to ensure you will not regret making the purchase.
The following are seven essential things to check when buying a used car:
1. Vehicle history
Before you even start negotiating price or visually checking the car, check its history. You can do that using the vehicle identification number, a unique alphanumeric code assigned to a car by the manufacturer.
The VIN will give a lot of specifics about the vehicle. What you are interested in when buying a used car is the model year and vehicle specifications such as engine type.
Using the VIN, you can get a vehicle history report for free on sites such as vincheck.info. A vehicle history report provides details such as:
- Vehicle sales history
- Number of reported accidents
- Whether the vehicle has been reported stolen
Before you start inspecting a car, make sure it is on level ground. That allows you to check the condition of the undercarriage easily; is it sagging, out of line or inline?
The key things to check on the exterior include:
- The condition of the paint job
- The state of the tires
- Rust and damage on the undercarriage including the exhaust system
- Frame damage
3. Under the hood
Pop the hood and look for any signs of damage. Look out for dents, cracks and rust. These things will tell you how well maintained the car is. Also, make sure that the hood opens easily, can be propped to stay open, and it closes securely.
Be careful when checking the engine, Oil stains on the engine could indicate a head gasket leak. Also, unscrew the oil cap on the engine. A foam residue on the inside of the oil cap could also indicate a head gasket problem. And, a head gasket is an expensive repair.
Be sure to check the transmission fluid. It should be full of fluid, and the fluid colour should be red or pink. More importantly, the liquid should not smell burnt.
- Sit inside the car and check:
- The upholstery for signs of wear and tear
- Whether the seat adjusting systems are working
- If the air conditioning is working
- The indicator lights are working
Mileage wears and tears some components in the car, especially the engine and gearbox. Still, low mileage does not necessarily mean the vehicle is in mint condition. So, when looking at a car, especially ones with high mileage, consider how-well maintained it is.
Of course, low mileage is appealing when buying a used car. It translates to less wear and tear; therefore, fewer repairs needed. But, remember, a car also needs to be driven frequently to keep it in good shape. Not driving a vehicle has a negative impact on the drivetrain. So, be wary of a second-hand car with an old manufacture year and extremely low mileage.
6. Test drive
It is important to know how it feels behind the wheel of a car before you buy. Besides, a test drive is another way of assessing the condition of the car. First, check if the dashboard warning lights go on when you turn the key into accessory position.
Then, start the car and listen for any weird sounds from the engine. Now drive the car, and keep your ears open for any clicking and tapping sounds. Also, test how well the brakes are working.
To determine the condition of the transmission, drive the car at varying speeds.
7. Mechanic inspection
Are you satisfied with everything about the car? Was the test drive smooth? Do not buy it yet. Take it to a mechanic for a thorough evaluation. A mechanic will be able to identify any underlying issue that may become significant problems.