Thinking about purchasing a used car? Purchasing a used car over a new one can save you a lot of money but first you want to make sure that the vehicle is in good condition and that there aren’t any underlying issues that the seller may be hiding from you. It’s recommended to have an experienced auto mechanic do a thorough inspection of the vehicle before you buy but there are also things that you can check for yourself.
Check the outside of the vehicle
First check the paint. Look for dents, scratches, and signs of rust. A good way to tell if there car has had a paint job is to feel along the edges between panels for any roughness, which is caused by masking tape. Another indicator that the vehicle was repainted is if there are any waves in the body of the car.
Next, check the tires. Does the car mileage match the wear on the tires? A car with a lot of mileage but new tires isn’t odd. However, a car with low mileage and worn or bald tires calls for some questioning. Also make sure the wear on the all four tires is even. Uneven wear could be a sign of suspension, steering, or alignment issues.
Most importantly, check the frame. You should avoid buying a used car that has a damaged frame. Accident repairs can be easily covered up, so this is going to call for closer inspection. Inspect the trunk, quarter panels, front fenders, and inside doorjambs for scratch marks, welding, patch panels, or fiberglass. However, it’s best to leave this inspection up to your mechanic.
Check under the hood
It’ll take a mechanic to fully inspect the engine, but there are a few things you can check for with a quick glance. First look for any signs of corrosion or leaks. Check to make sure the transmission fluid is completely filled by looking at the transmission dipstick while the engine is running. The fluid should be pink or red but should not look or smell burnt.
Also inspect the belts and hoses to make sure they are in good condition, meaning that there are no cracks and the hoses aren’t soft. Also ask the seller if the timing belt has been replaced, and if so, when. The timing belt should be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles.
Check inside the vehicle
A newer car with a lot of miles is no better than an old car with only a few miles, so it’s important to check the odometer. Ask your mechanic for advice on whether or not the car is worth the investment or if it is going to be a money pit down the road.
If you live in an area with hot summers, you definitely don’t want to overlook the air conditioning system. Turn the car on and leave the AC on for a while to make sure it is blowing out cold air. Car air conditioners may start to leak over time due to degraded o-rings and gaskets. If possible, go with a car that’s AC uses R134 coolant (there will be a stick on the AC condenser saying so).
Lastly, you want take the car out for a spin so that you can test the brakes. Press hard on the brakes while going at a speed that’s greater than 30 mph (but don’t slam on them) to make sure they are reliable enough to stop the car in the event of an emergency. You don’t want to find out the car has faulty brakes during a time you’re going to need them the most. Remember, the most important thing to consider before purchasing a used vehicle is safety.