Tips on Inspecting a Used Car

Everyone has their own concerns when buying a used car. To reduce the risk of purchasing a trouble-prone car, doing your homework to identify models with a good reliability record before you shop. You can check Consumer Reports to get specific vehicle reports on a vehicle you may be interested in – to learn about up to 17 trouble areas – so you can pay special attention to those components during inspection.


Read the Sticker. The FTC requires dealers to post a Buyers Guide on every used vehicle for sale; it includes info where the vehicle is being sold ‘as is’ or with a warranty, along with any percentage of repair cost the dealer will pay. This may help you make a decision on a particular car – maybe pushing you in the direction of one car vs another since it comes with a warranty, etc.


What to Inspect

Anytime you are purchasing a vehicle always look over the vehicle thoroughly. If possible have your trusted mechanic do a quick inspection as well. We always call ahead to our mechanic to make sure that they are available around the time we will be test driving – that way we can swing by and they are expecting us! Mechanics can test out things we might not know much about – engine, battery, radiator, fluids, hoses and belts, muffler, etc. Unless you know quite a bit about the insides of how a vehicle is supposed to look/work – take it to your mechanic! If you don’t have one, ask a friend. Someone knows someone who can hlep!


Exterior. Check each and every body panel, and the roof and look for scratches, dents and rust. Examine the fenders and doors, looking for misaligned panels or any type of gaps. Scratches can easily be fixed – rust, not so much. Be sure to check wheel wells and rocker panels beneath the doors, and bring a flashlight so you can inspect in those darker, harder to reach places.
Check the doors, hood and trunk to make sure that they open without a problem – wiggle them a bit, make sure the hinges aren’t loose. Check the rubber seal,etc.
Look over vehicle glass to make sure there are no large cracks – if so, this should be brought up during price negotiations. Be sure that when you negotiate and if they offer to fix it, be sure that it’s through a legit glass company.
Make sure the lights work, that they aren’t cracked or fogged with moisture.

You can tell a lot by the tires – any vehicle with less than 20k miles should probably have the original tires. If it’s a lower mileage car with newer tires, double check all the paperwork to make sure the previous owner didn’t roll back the odometer or mess with anything. Check the tread – if it’s bad, negotiate new tires into the deal or get your bottom line lower.

You spend a lot of time inside your car – so make sure you take time to inspect everything. Even some of the smallest imperfections can get irritating. For example, when I bought my vehicle I didn’t pay attention to the handle of the door. For the first month I scraped/cut myself on the handle because the silver metal paint was peeling off, and on occasion it would scrap just right and make my finger bleed. Something small, but I could of had them fix it if I would of paid closer attention.
Check upholstery to make sure it’s not ripped or overly worn. Try the seat adjustments to make sure everything works properly, and it’s a comfortable fit.
Check all the ‘lights’ and controls. Try every button and lever. Turn the ignition switch on (without starting the engine) and you should see the warning lights pop on (if not, you need to talk to your mechanic).
Turn the heat on full blast – then the AC. See how fast and well it blows out. If there is any issue, make sure that the dealership takes care of it before you sign anything.
Check for wet spots on carpet (even under the floor mats) Take a sniff for other odors like mold or smoke – those aren’t soo easy to get rid of, and if it bothers you you might want to find another car.
Check the speakers, and radio or CD player. Make sure everything works. Bring a CD to try out to make sure – test the AC adaptor if you plan to use another device like your phone or an iPod.
Look up! Check out the interior for stains or sags. If you have a sunroof or moonroof, make sure it opens and closes properly and seals well. I recommend pouring a bottle of water over the top and check for leaks inside.


This post was sponsored in part by Hillview Motors.

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