Buying a used car is not only a financial decision; it is also an emotional and mentally draining affair.
There are many things to look for when buying a used car but one important factor is to give the car a physical check before making your final decision. How do you do this? Here’s the guideline you should follow:
CHECKING THE CAR’S FORM
1). Make sure that the car is on level ground before checking it out. This is to ensure that you will be able to clearly check the tires and to see if there is anything sagging on the car.
2). Carefully check the paint job of the car, taking note of any rust spots, dents or scratches. The car should be clean so the paint condition is visible. Look at the sides of the car from end-on for waviness; that indicates paintwork.
Run your finger along the edges of the joints between panels; roughness indicates residue left from masking tape.
3). Check the boot of the car to make sure it is still in good condition. It should not show any sign of rust, or water entry due to cracks or holes. Wear inside of the trunk indicates usage of the car.
4). Check the tires. The tires should be worn evenly and they should match. Look at the surface of the tire for feathering (bad alignment). Bad alignment can be caused by worn steering/suspension components or a damaged frame.
5). Never buy a frame damaged car. Check the saddle (connects the front fenders and holds the top of the radiator).
It may be welded or bolted in. Inspect the bolt heads at the top of the fenders inside the hood; scratch marks indicates that the fenders have been replaced or realigned (after a crash).
6). Try to get under the car when it is safely raised and inspect the exhaust system or any under-body rust. Look for any black spots on the exhaust system because this can indicate leaking. This is also a good time to inspect for frame or unibody damage.
Check the exhaust with your finger. Greasy grime means there is a big problem. Turn the car on. White vapor (not in a cold climate) is a bad sign too..
CHECKING UNDER THE HOOD
1). Check under the hood of the car for any indication of dents, damage or rust. These can all be signs that the car was either poorly taken care of or damaged. Each fender, just inside where the hood joins, should have a decal with the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the car.
If the decal is not there, it does not necessarily indicate the fender was replaced; the location of the VIN is manufacture-dependent.
2). Check the hoses and belts. They should not have cracks. The radiator hoses should not be soft.
3). Inspect the engine for any sort of leaks, or corrosion. On the engine block, look for any dark brown oil stains, this will indicate that there is a leak in a gasket, and could possibly lead to an expensive repair in the future.
Check the brake fluid, and reservoir to make sure it is not leaking. The belts should look new (i.e. not have cracks or signs of drying). Old belts can snap, and if you do not know how to replace them.
4). Remove the oil filler cap. A foam residue on the inside indicates a leaking head gasket. Forget that car…
5). Pull the transmission dipstick; the fluid should be pink or red. An old car may be dark but it should not look or smell burnt. It should also be full (check with the engine running).
6). Check the timing belt. This is the most important belt in the engine, and is also the most costly to replace. If the car is equipped with a steel timing chain, you don’t have to worry about this.
CHECKING INSIDE THE CAR
1). Go inside the car. Check the seats and upholstery of the car for any tears, rips, stains, or other types of damage.
2). Check to make sure the air-conditioning of the car is working well by turning it on. If air conditioning is a must, buy a car with R134 coolant. Most cars fitted with R134 are 1993 or newer and have a sticker on the AC Condenser.
3). Check the odometer of the car for the mileage. This is important because the mileage indicates the car’s age.
4). Find out if the car has a computer on board. Bring with you an On-Board Diagnostic kit to check for errors. For a car that has an onboard computer, pay attention to the warnings right when you start the car or when you turn the key or the start button.
5). Verify the lights and all the regular functions of the car when not moving.
TEST DRIVING THE CAR
1). Test drive the car before making any final decisions. This is perhaps one of the best ways to know the condition of the car. Hence, a buyer should make all effort to do a test drive first before coming to any decisions.
2). Be sure to check the brakes of the car by pressing down hard enough on the brakes to decelerate rapidly, but not enough to slide.
Try this going around 48 km/h in an area without traffic. You should not feel any vibration from the brake pedal, or hear any squealing or strange noises.
Brakes that pulsate indicate the need for having the rotors resurfaced or replaced and new pads installed. It should not swerve; this can be caused by a bad brake caliper or worn steering components.
3). Check for small trepidation at 45 / 55 / 65 / 75 (121 km/h). Slight trepidation during a small speed interval may mean wear at the direction mechanical parts. These may include joints/arms etc. This may go together with uneven wear on the front tire(s).
4). Check for sounds, trepidation or clunking noise when making a 90-degree turn. Do this at low speed. This means again, wear at the front direction level: joints need to be changed.
REACHING YOUR DECISION
1). Check out the car’s service history which should give you some information regarding the performances, repairs, and problems of the car.
Ideally, the current owner would have kept a record of the times when the car needed servicing and should be willing to show you this information.
Some cars do not have maintenance records because they maintained them at informal garages. This should be fine as long as they can prove they maintained the car properly.
There are instances where used cars are sold because of past accidents or negative experiences.
2). Take with you someone who knows cars. It is a good idea to bring along a trusted friend with a good background of automotive know-how to check things that you are not sure of.
If you do not have a trusted friend in the auto industry you can pay a mechanic to complete an inspection on it.
3). Inspect the car’s documents keenly. A log book is a document that proves ownership of the car.Do a search and verify that the documents are genuine.
4). Do not pay the set price. A car is a negotiable item.
5). Apply for a transfer of ownership online through National Transport and Safety Authority.