Checking out a used car

07.06.2021

Picking the best choice your money can buy is critical in every transaction. Especially when you‘re purchasing a vehicle, it‘s not easy, so we‘re here to provide you with advice on checking out a used car. 

Exterior

  • Pay attention to all of the exterior parts of the vehicle. Carefully make sure that all parts are of the car are of the same color and the spaces between them aren‘t too wide. Bolts of various components can also tell a lot about your potential new car – make sure that bolts of the same part are identical to one another.
  • Inspect the tires. The wear on all tires should be somewhat similar. Otherwise, this might indicate wheel misalignment. Tire protectors are also important – the sides shouldn‘t be cracked.
  • Headlights might also indicate the car‘s actual mileage. “Foggy” headlights should be considered a red flag.
  • Rust isn‘t always terrible. It indicates huge problems if the car‘s rim arches, door skirts, or steps are rusty. This may mean that the rust is coming from under the vehicle, and essential parts, like the exhaust system, are damaged by rust. 

Electronics

  • Test all of the electronics. Firstly, the gauge cluster or the infotainment system shouldn‘t show any errors unless the owner has already notified you about them. Test the windows, mirrors, windshield wipers, and other electronics in the vehicle.
  • Test all of the possible modes of climate control and air conditioning. Lights are vital too – flick them through all options, try the indicators, and other vital electronics.

Engine and drivetrain

  • Inspect the levels of oil and coolant. The right amount of both liquids should be marked on the dipsticks. Low amounts of engine oil or coolant could indicate engine failure, radiator failure, and other malfunctions. 
  • Beware of oil leaks on the engine block and below the car. 
  • Turn on the engine – listen to any unusual noises. Anything out of the ordinary most likely indicates various engine problems.
  • Start the vehicle while it‘s cold. Pay attention to the ease of ignition. Then, once the oil reaches an acceptable temperature – shut down and attempt starting again. 
  • Please pay attention to the amount of time it takes the oil to reach an acceptable temperature. If this takes more than 3-5 minutes, then thermostat problems are likely.
  • Check out the timing belts (or chains). They shouldn‘t have much wear on them, and their ID codes must be visible.
  • Beware of the smoke color. Apply gas if needed to see the smoke. Pale, blue, or coal-black smokes reveal engine problems.
  • Start the vehicle and turn the wheel to both sides. It shouldn‘t feel heavy, nor should it emit unusual noises. 

Test drive

  • Test the brakes. They should respond instantly to your foot, with no other resistance than the speed of the vehicle itself. 
  • Test the suspension on uneven roads. The car should act smoothly, with no unusual noises or vibrations. 
  • Take your vehicle on the highway. Achieve a higher speed and see if the car can go in a straight line without much interferance. If not, this indicates wheel misalignment or tire air pressure disbalance.
  • Feel the gearbox. Manual gearboxes should respond instantly to the driver‘s command. Automatic gearboxes should shift smoothly, without any shaking or noise. 

Additional measures

  • Acquire the car‘s VIN code and check it with your trusted database. If you see anything that the owner hasn‘t warned you of – it‘s advisable to avoid this purchase.
  • If possible, bring the car to a trusted mechanic to perform diagnostics.