Buying a used car is cheaper than buying a new car. However, if you do not inspect it properly, you will have to pay higher maintenance costs.
In addition, these cars lose value more quickly, so they have a low resale value. Even if the exterior of the car looks flawless after a fresh coat of paint, you may find hidden problems under the hood.
How to check a used car before buying
If you have little knowledge of how to operate a car, you may need to keep your mechanic at hand for a car inspection.
1. Interior and exterior inspection
Most car dealers give the car a fresh coat of paint and some wax when selling it. To detect rust and dents, you need to take a closer look at the car. If the car was involved in an accident, this could be a signal of further engine problems. Your mechanic will need to check the engine system for signs of leakage.
This includes checking the engine oil, radiator coolant, and brake fluid. If you see a green leak, it could be the coolant, while a yellowish-red fluid is a sign of engine oil leakage. Run the engine for a few minutes and let it idle while you check the floor under the car for leaks. Check the trunk for spare tyres, jacks and ratchets.
2. Test drive
Do not buy a car without giving it a test drive. Listen to the sound of the engine. If you hear a rattling noise, this is a signal of further engine problems. Try to accelerate and brake the car. The brakes should be responsive and quiet. If the car has problems braking, the brake pads may be worn or the brake fluid may be used up. The engine should have a smooth running transmission. Check later that all the car’s electronics are working properly.
3. Check the paperwork
You can check the VIN table and see if it matches what is on the contract. Pay particular attention to the engine number. You can also take the time to search for previous owners. Is the car legally available for sale? Is it stolen? Avoid having anyone other than the dealer deliver the car.
4. Worn out tires
A new set of tires is expensive. You have to check the tires for wear and tear, which is often visible. You should drive a fair distance in the car and watch the tires for bumps. The tires must be well aligned, as this prevents the car from wobbling while driving.
5. Raise the car
Check the exhaust for signs of cracking. If you find soot deposits, this could indicate problems with the internal combustion engine. It is not unusual for the car to emit some white smoke when driving in the morning. This is due to water condensation. However, excessive white smoke means that coolant is leaking. Black smoke is produced when oil enters the combustion chambers. It is also a sign of unburned fuel.
6. Research used cars
Before you decide on a particular car, check the market for similar models. What you are looking for are maintenance costs, pricing, and possible defects. When you contact a car dealer, you will have an indication of what sort of prices to negotiate for.
RELATED: Best Used Cars to Buy
7. Ask the dealer questions
You may want the dealer to tell you why he is selling the car, what the mileage is and whether the car was involved in a car accident. Once you have the VIN, you can check the car history.
8. Check the working condition of accessories
If the engine is in good condition and the car moves silently, you should check out the accessories. These include turning on the air conditioning, radio, and sunroof if the car has one. If the car has an on-board computer, you should use a diagnostic device to check for faults. Most diagnostic tools are inexpensive, but they are very useful for detecting engine problems. Next, check that the headlights, signals, and brake lights are working.
9. Negotiate the price
Do not simply pay what the dealer suggests. You are not forced to pay a fixed price. Negotiate with the dealer about the purchase price. Do not offer a ridiculously low price during the negotiations, as this will only make the dealer angry. Make sure that you can afford the monthly loan repayments. You should take into account your monthly expenses and have something extra for emergencies when buying. If you find that something is missing or missing in the car, use this to reduce the purchase price.
RELATED: Should I fix up or trade up my car?
10. Sign a legal document
It is advisable for the seller to sign a contract when selling the car. This will confirm that you are the legal owner of the car. Some unscrupulous dealers may sell you a stolen car and insist on paying for it in cash. Let someone you trust accompany you when you buy. A close friend will act as a witness and help you uncover hidden defects in the car. Come with an inspection list if you come alone. Check every item when you inspect it.
11. Identify best deals
You can find the best car deals from dealers, private resellers or online websites. Dealers offer many customization options, and some also offer you car loans. However, these are usually more expensive than traditional car loans. Online car sellers in your area can be found through established car websites. Do not pay online for a car without physically inspecting it.
RELATED: Should you Lease or Buy a Used Car?
12. Follow your instincts
Finally, if you feel that the agreement is not entirely clean, then walk away. If you see that paint was used to hide dents, or that the car has an unusual smell, pull out of the deal. There are many cars on the market, and you can always find another one.
Inspecting a car before you buy it is crucial if you do not want to drive a dead car. Let your car mechanic accompany you during the purchase. Check the engine for leaks and always take a test drive. A well-maintained car is quiet when driving. Accelerate the car and apply the emergency brake; check the reaction. Above all, trust your gut feeling.
Hi, I’m Magnus, the owner and the writer of Mechanic Base. I have been working with cars for 10 years, specialized in diagnostics and troubleshooting. I created this blog because I was tired of finding false information on the web while looking for repair information. I hope you enjoy my content!