Buying a used car can be a frightful experience for those unfamiliar with the inner workings of a car, you often run the risk of buying a poorly maintained, repair heavy vehicle or even worse, put yourself at danger in a stolen or unsafe car. So how can you be sure that slick salesman or overly confident seller isn’t trying to flog you a dead horse?
There are a few simple things you can check or ask about the car before you make any decision to talk price. These considerations should form a list of what to check when buying a used car, take this list with you if you need to, after all, it’s a lot of money to risk on the word of a stranger.
Number 1 on your new list of what to check when buying a used car should be to run the vehicle through a history check using the VIN number. This number can be found in any documentation the owner may have (email them and request it) or you can usually find it at the bottom of the windscreen. Check the VIN you are given matches the log book and that the actual label hasn’t been tampered with.
There are a few websites where you can request a report on the car, this report should tell you whether the car:
Has been registered lost/stolen
Has been registered as scrap/salvage following an accident
Has been in any accidents
The mileage has been altered
and much more…
Number 2 on your checklist should be to check the idle revs. When you turn the car on the rev counter should rise to one notch below 1. If the revs are higher this can indicate a problem.
Number 3 on your list of what to check when buying a used car should be the paint finish, is it consistent? If there have been major repairs not identified by the owner they can often show as brighter coloured panels/parts whereas the rest of the car is a consistent, slightly faded colour. Also check that all major panels have an equal spacing, if they don’t again this can signal a major repair.
Number 4 should be to check all doors, boot and bonnet open and close securely.
Number 5 is to check all rubber seals for signs of paint-work, this can indicate a re-spray and if neither the owner nor the document highlight this it can raise suspicion that the car was in an accident or has been stolen and repainted for sale.
Number 6 on your list should be to check the car inside and out, and underneath, for signs of rust.
Number 7 is to check the tyres for even wear and legal tread depth. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to stand a 10p coin upright between the tread. Unequal wear of the tread can indicate an issue with the car leaning to or favouring one wheel. This could be something as simple as the tracking but could be more serious.
Number 8 on your list of what to check when buying a used car is damp upholstery or excessive condensation inside the car. This can indicate a leak. Don’t be fooled by the, ‘I left the window open and it rained‘ excuse.
Number 9 should be to check the mileage fits the condition of the car and that indicated in the log or service book. If they differ, walk away. If for instance the steering wheel and dashboard are overly worn, but the car has a low mileage, this could indicate tampering with the mileage clock. Again, walk away.
Number 10, check under the car for evidence of leaks. This one can be difficult especially if the owner is aware of the issue and purposely cleans up before your visit. It can often be worth turning up a little earlier than arranged to see if the owner is being honest with you.