Smart consumers will know exactly what to look for when they think of buying a used car. The second hand market is commonly seen as a market where the best savings can be had; the kicker is that you have to know where to look so that you don’t end up with a faulty car. You may have to weigh in the costs of repairing and additional maintenance fees that a used car may incur before deciding, unless your intent was to restore a wreck in the first place.
An automobile houses many complicated parts under the hood, so taking your time to give the car a once-over both inside and out may be imperative before deciding on a purchase. Getting a feel of every single part of the car will also help you gauge how much you are getting out of your money’s worth, both before and after the initial purchase. Buying a cheap car which will need massive repairs later may defeat the purpose of buying a second hand car.
Before Buying: Legal Issues
There are many laws that surround the automotive world; some laws and regulations are vital to safety and security, while others may seem outright arbitrary. Regardless of what you may think about these laws, you will still need to follow them even before you think of purchasing a second hand automobile. Here are a few things you should look for in particular when checking one out:
- Mileage: Odometer fraud is a very common occurrence in the automotive market today, and is perpetrated by both ordinary citizens, and even some car dealers. If you have access, check out the car’s history records, the condition of the interior, tires, and even the odometer itself. The odometer should be straight, and should be in working order when the car is running.
- Service History – This document in particular should also reveal much about the vehicle you are thinking about buying. Most used cars should have even a few repairs on them, especially if they have seen regular use. Dealerships and auto shops will typically have their contact details stamped next to the service record, so you can verify if the repair work was actually done on the car.
- Registration Papers – One thing you don’t ever want to be caught with is a stolen car. Call up your local motor vehicle office to match the plate numbers to the car and the person who owns it. You may also ask the owner to provide legal documentation as proof of ownership to the car, unless you are skeptical about these documents being forged.
- Market Prices – You should also take the time to research on the current going prices of the used car you are looking at. Depreciation is standard when a car exits the dealership and ends up in the hands of the owner, so gauge the price drops according to these current market prices.
With all of the legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way, you should begin inspecting the car proper.
What To Inspect On a Used Car
- Bodywork – A used car should show some scuff marks here and there. A good owner would have polished the car down and taken care of scratches and dents when they happen, but you probably shouldn’t expect much when buying a used car in the first place. If superficial blemishes do not concern you that much, then you can skip on to the next part.
- Chassis Rigidity – The inner structure of a car can be affected by corrosion, rust, and other kinds of damage, wear and tear on the chassis. If you see any members of the chassis or cross under the bonnet, then that will probably mean that major repairs are needed.
- Car Interior – Check to see if the upholstery, electronics and gauges are in working order. This can include the power windows and controls to the headlights, etc. Also, be sure to check the odometer for tampering.
- Engine – Don’t be fooled by the general appearance of the engine at first sight; both a clean and dirty engine can mean too many things to even begin counting. Check the oil, as well as the dipstick, to see if the oil has been changed recently. The coolant should not be odd-colored, either. After checking the engine physically, give the engine a cold start and rev it up a bit; rattling noises may be a bad indicator for the engine.
- Transmission – An automatic transmission should have correct fluid levels. This fluid should not only perform well, but also be free of a burnt smell. Manual gearboxes should have a clutch which operates smoothly while gearing up and down.
- Steering & Tires – If there is a time delay between your steering and the actual turning of the tires, then there is serious problem with the steering mechanism. Your car must also remain stable while at normal speeds, too. The tires should also have intact treads, or at least have evenly-distributed wear on each tire.
- Suspension – Uneven wear on your tires may suggest that there is a problem with your suspension. Push on all sides of the car to check the dampers. The suspension should also have no fluid leakages, and good, solid handling on regular road surfaces.
Knowing what to look for when buying a used car is key to getting the most out of your hard-earned cash.