Things to Check When Buying a Used Car

Things to Check When Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car over a new car could save you money, but it’s important to ensure the vehicle will provide what you need and won’t lead to costly repairs shortly down the road. It can be confusing on what to check on the vehicle if you’ve never purchased a used car before. However, not to worry, Real Simple Car Loan is here to help with a comprehensive list of things to check when buying a used car.

 

  1. Test drive the vehicle. Simulate conditions from your normal driving pattern. Listen for any noises when driving and idling.
  2. Check the brakes while driving. Make sure there is no vibration or squealing when pressing the brakes. If so, a brake repair may be necessary very soon.
  3. Notice the car’s performance when accelerating or when reaching higher speeds. Ensure there is no trepidation, or trembling. This could mean a number of problems including worn or dirty ball joints, a bent axle or driveshaft, or broken/damaged motor mounts.
  4. Make sure all of the amenities inside the vehicle are working properly, such as the heat, air conditioning, and radio, etc.
  5. Observe if there are any warning lights on in the car. While warning lights don’t always mean costly repairs, it’s important to be aware of these lights if they are on. Ask the seller how long these lights have been on. Flashing warning lights can indicate bigger repairs needed.
  6. Inspect the interior for any unwanted odors or stains. Make sure the seats are functioning properly and you are happy with the amount of head and leg room in the vehicle.
  7. Inspect the vehicle. During inspection the vehicle should be sitting on level ground. If the vehicle leans to either side, there is almost always an issue with the shocks, springs, struts, chassis, or suspension.
  8. The vehicle should free of any rust. Inspect the underbody, door edges, hinges, and floorboard. Ensure there are no leaking fluids under the vehicle.
  9. Inspect the glass for any chips or cracks. A windshield chip could easily spread leading to poor visibility or shattering if you were to be in an accident.
  10. Check to make sure all the lights and turn signals on the vehicle are working properly.
  11. Examine the frame of car to reveal if any accidents have occurred. See that the framework connecting the front fenders is bolted on both sides, not welded. Inspect the door jambs for welds. Examine bolt heads for scratches. Any welding on the frame or scratches on the bolt heads could indicate a previous accident.
  12. Check under the hood for any rust or visible damage. Examine the fenders for a sticker with the VIN. If the fenders do not have one, this indicates they could have been replaced due to an accident.
  13. Check the engine for any leaks, corrosion, or noises. Any oil stains on the engine block could indicate a leaky oil pan.
  14. Ensure the transmission fluid is still pink or red. Fluid should never be black or have a burnt smell.
  15. Check for any black spots or grime on the exhaust, and be sure there is no white vapor emitting. This could mean a blown head gasket or burning oil, and may require a new exhaust system.
  16. Look at the hoses and belts. Radiator hoses should have no cracks or damage. Make sure the serpentine belt is in good condition.
  17. Check all the tires for feathering, uneven wear and tear, or diminished thread depth. These issues could mean a bad alignment, worn steering or suspension components.
  18. Check with the previous owner for a record of oil changes, repairs, radiator flushes, or other routine maintenance. Cross check the odometer with the previous owner’s report of maintenance.
  19. Inspect the trunk, as the trunk can be a good indication of the utility of the vehicle, as well as how the previous owner has treated it. Ensure the spare tire is placed under the floor of the trunk and that it is not damaged.
  20. Request a vehicle history report including details on accidents, flood damage, VIN verification, number of previous owners, actual mileage, and any recall checks. 
  21. Check the reputation of that vehicle’s make/model.
  22. Take the vehicle to a mechanic for a full inspection and a professional opinion.