You wouldn’t buy a house without walking around every room and asking a surveyor to give it a once over – and the same level of care should be taken when buying a car.
While dealers must make sure cars are of a ‘satisfactory quality’ and are ‘fit for purpose,’ knowing how to inspect a used car could save you a lot of trouble down the line. With this in mind, here’s what you should check before making a purchase.
When buying a used car you can expect a few cosmetic flaws. A scratch here and a dent there is relatively normal, but if there’s rust that’s much more serious. Similarly, look out for misaligned panels as this could be a sign of a poor assembly job or a bad repair. Sometimes, cars that have been cobbled back together after an accident have doors that are stiff, so be aware of this as you get in and out of the vehicle – and always check the boot too.
There are many steps to buying a used car including testing the lights. One of the best ways to ensure that all of the bulbs are working is to take a friend with you. That way they can move from the front to the back of the car as you turn on all the required switches and press the breaks. As well as the lights, ensure all lenses and reflectors are in good shape and are not misty or cracked.
The last thing you want to do is to buy a car that doesn’t lock, so always double check the locking system. If it’s manual, test each door separately. If it’s automatic, used the keys to unlock the door and see how far away from the vehicle you have to be before the doors will open. If there’s a delay in the automatic locking system or you have any problems, be sure to look over the service history and MOT paperwork.
There really shouldn’t be any stone chips at all and if there’s one or two this should lower the price of the vehicle. If you spot a crack in the windscreen, be aware that this is likely to worsen and could lead to costly repairs in the future.
Never be afraid of inspecting a car from top to bottom. Dealers will expect you to give every vehicle a once over and private sellers shouldn’t be offended if you take your time. If they are, there might be something they’re not telling you. With regards to the suspension, walk around the vehicle and bounce each corner up and down. The car should rebound just once and not keep bouncing up and down. If it does, this could mean the shock absorbers are not in good shape.
Also, pull the front of each tire hard to see if you can hear any unusual clicking sounds that may indicate a problem with the wheel bearings or suspension joints.
According to the law, tyres must have a minimum 1.6mm of tread. Anything less is extremely dangerous and should be fixed quickly. Cars with anything less than 20,000 miles on the odometer should have their original tires. If the mileage is lower and the tyres are new the odometer might have been rolled back. The list of what to know before buying a car is extensive, but at least you won’t be caught out by an obvious issue.