Buying a second hand car is a very common thing to do, not many people can afford a brand new car and the majority of second cars will still be relatively new and be perfectly suitable for your requirements, whether it be for commuting to work every day, or just for driving to visit family and friends at the weekend.
Due to the fact the car you are buying is second hand, it is very important to make sure you give it a thorough check before agreeing to anything. Giving a previously used car a check can be a daunting process though, especially when the owner or dealer is standing over you watching your every move.
To help you remember all the points we created a downloadable checklist for your phone or printed out that covers all the points below.
- Bodywork – Check the paintwork for a consistent finish. If there are any shading issues in the colour the likelihood is there has been some damage and repairs.
- Panelling – Check the gaps in between the panels, if the width of them is uneven, then again they may have been damaged and repaired.
- Suspension – Press down gently on each corner of the car to check when released it returns easily to its normal height. If it starts bouncing slightly the suspension may have problems.
- Paintwork – Look for bubbling within the paintwork, if you see any, it could have a rust problem.
- VIN – Check the car’s Vehicle’s Identification Number for tampering. You should be able to find it on a small strip of metal at the bottom of the windscreen, beneath the driver side carpet or under the bonnet.
- Tyres – The car should have four wheels with a tread of at least 1.6mm. There should also be a suitable spare wheel in the boot. Check the wear on the outsides of the tyres too, as too much on one side could indicate wheel misalignment or crash damage.
Under the Bonnet
- VIN – As mentioned before, check the car’s VIN is the same as that in the car’s log book.
- Leaks – Be sure to check for oil water and other fluid leaks near the engine and on the floor underneath the car.
- Oil – Pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean, then return it and pull it out again. Check the oil levels are at max and that the oil is a clear, golden colour.
- Battery – Check the terminals on the battery to ensure they are free from rust and look in a good condition.
- Fluid Levels – The coolant can be found in a round tank with a screw top and the brake fluid is usually found at the rear of the engine is small bottle. When the car is cool make sure these are both at the required levels.
- Mileage – Have a look at the odometer on the car’s dashboard to check that the car’s mileage is the same as what has been advertised and what is displayed in the car’s documents.
- Electricals – Check the air conditioning, windows, sun roof and any other electrical appliances in the car to make sure they all work well and don’t appear damaged.
- Steering Wheel – Any damage to the steering wheel could indicate that the airbag has been used and the car has been in a crash recently.
- Seatbelts – Make sure there is no fraying to the seatbelts; any damage could be associated with a recent crash so it’s worth checking.
Before you go and view the first car you hear about though, make sure to do your homework. Check a variety of price guides, and when you have chosen a model you like be sure to compare it with other similar cars so you know as much possible about its value and what to look out for before being put on the spot by a dealer.
There are some great sites out there like Honest John which can help you find out about the common faults some cars have and what to look out for when you are looking for a new car.
We put together a handy check list for you to download and take with you next time you are checking out a used car.