Finding and buying a reliable used car is extremely time consuming. In addition to important things like the make and model, it is also vital that you pay attention to the physical condition of the car, so you must make sure that you are buying a safe car and that it has received the indicated maintenance.
The most important thing is to have it checked out by a mechanic you trust before closing the purchase, in the end this will save you money and headaches. But even before a mechanic sees it, there are details you can review yourself to make a more informed decision and know you’re on the right track. And of course, it never hurts to ask your car insurance company how much it would cost to insure that car before you buy it.
Next, we present the 10 basic inspection points that you should review before buying a used car.
Check the paint carefully for any dents, scratches, peeling, or signs of rust. Check the painting from different angles. Deep scratches are ideal for rust generation on the bodywork. Scrapes on the underbody could indicate damage from an accident.
2. Bands or straps
Check under the hood to make sure the hoses and bands are in good shape. They should not have any cracks and the radiator hose should not be soft. Ask if the timing belt has ever been changed, and if so, ask when. On average, weather strips last 60,000 to 100,000 miles. If the car has a steel timing chain, you need your mechanic’s opinion. Some car manufacturers state that the timing chain lasts for the life of the car, while others recommend replacing it every time a certain number of miles have been reached.
Unless the tires have been replaced, make sure the number of miles on the odometer matches the wear. If the tires are already worn or slick, but the car has low miles, the tires are from another car or the odometer is wrong. Try this test: Take a penny and put it in the indentation of the tire tread in different places. If part of Lincoln’s head is not covered by the tire at all times, the tires will need to be changed soon.
Look for signs of leaks or rust or corrosion. With the engine running, check the transmission oil dipstick for oil. The liquid should be pink or red. It may be dark on other models, but it should never look or smell burnt.
Never buy a car with body damage. Repairs from past accidents can be easily hidden, so be sure to check the bumpers, bolts and rivets, the trunk, and the insides of the doors for signs of scuffs and welds.
With the car’s transmission in neutral, accelerate and ask a friend about the color of the exhaust smoke. If you see blue smoke, it means the engine is burning oil and has internal problems.
In an automatic transmission in good condition, the changes should come in smoothly and without noise. Loud noises may indicate a problem. If the transmission is manual, make sure the gears don’t squeak or make a lot of noise when shifting. That would indicate that the gears are out of sync, which would lead to a major repair.
8. Odometer and pedals
Does the wear on the accelerator and brake pedals match the miles traveled? Excessively worn pedals on a car with “only 20,000 miles” may indicate that the odometer has been tampered with.
9. Dash lights
Check the “Check Engine”, “Air Bags” and “ABS” lights. Do they come on when the key is in the accessory position or before starting? Do they turn off afterwards?
When you test drive (preferably in an empty parking lot) at a high speed (30 miles per hour or more), press hard on the brake to test its condition. Don’t brake hard enough to skid, but make sure they’re reliable in an emergency.
And, last but not least, make sure you take the car to your trusted mechanic before closing the purchase.