If you’re in the market for a used car, keep in mind that finding a trouble-free one has nothing to do with luck. It requires you to be diligent at research and apply keen investigative skills. By doing so, you’ll be able to learn how to spot potential problems. It also helps you determine how safe and reliable a pre-owned vehicle is so that you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to buying the car or not. Saying nay to a potentially problematic vehicle can save you not only from expensive repairs, but it can also save your life.
Even if you have the budget to buy any car you want, remember to do your homework first and look out for these things when purchasing a used car, so you will be safe on the road.
Paperwork - the audit trail
Cars should have a logbook in which service repairs, licence information, and MOT certificates are indicated. Check the logbook, examine the service history, and study receipts and MOT certificates to see if the vehicle has been properly maintained. The paperwork should be in order and in their original form.
Engine - the vvrroooom of every car
The heart of the car should well-maintained, and the Vehicle Identification Number should have no sign of tampering. It should also be the same as recorded in the logbook. If it looks altered in any way, don’t exert any more effort and start looking elsewhere—you don’t want to get involved in anything illegal!
If the VIN is fine, check everything else: the oil, water, and engine body. Check for fluid leaks, the condition of the oil, and fluid levels of the brake fluid and engine coolant. The battery system, especially the connectors and terminals, should be in good condition and free from rust.
Exteriors - don't just care about model and colour
Use a keen eye to study the overall exterior of the car. Be wary of cleverly-done paint finish that may be hiding a major damage to the bodywork. Check for a consistent paint finish; it should be the same shade all over the vehicle. The driver and passenger doors should open and close smoothly, with intact and secure rubber seals. Examine the seals for tell-tale signs of a paint respray! Check the gaps between the car’s panels and make sure they are the same width.
Uneven gaps could indicate that the car had been crashed and repaired.
Outstanding finance - does your car carry a debt burden?
A recent phenomenon is that people sell cars with logbook loans on them. It's legal and it's happening more and more, so you have to do some checks. I just read about it in the The Mirror
Interiors and no not just the upholstery!
Check those numbers! The mileage on the car’s odometer should be consistent with what the seller says and the car’s service log or other documents. Check to see if all of the instruments and controls work, from the lights, the electric windows, locks, air conditioning, seat adjustment, and the bonnet release.
Beware of these things that indicate the car went through some trouble in the past:
Damage to the ignition and steering column – this could indicate the car had been hotwired, and possibly stolen
Frayed seatbelts – indicate that these have been activated in a crash
Dashboard and steering wheel damage – these could indicate the airbags had been activated, which means the car has crashed at least once before
When everything is in order, take the car out for a test drive so you can completely assess its performance before closing the deal. Recall the topics in your theory test to guide you in choosing the right car!
This post is in collaboration with +Debbie Fletcher