Used cars can be a great option for those looking to save money on their car purchase. Not only are there tremendous savings compared to the sticker price for a new car, but used cars aren’t as costly to insure and they don’t depreciate quite as much as a new car. For these reasons, it’s no wonder that so many people are in the market for used cars. While you may be able to snag a good deal, experts agree that used cars should always be inspected by a qualified specialist before making the purchase. The last thing you want is to spend thousands of dollars on a car only to find that it requires expensive repairs. It’s important to inspect used cars in order to identify potential problems and red flags before signing on the dotted line. A thorough inspection can help you weed out less desirable cars and find one that is in good condition. Here are a few ways you can self-inspect a pre-owned car before having it evaluated by a professional mechanic.
Pull a History Report
One of the most important requirements when inspecting a used vehicle is the history report of the vehicle. This report will provide significant information about the car’s past including previous owners and titles, as well as maintenance history and accident history. You should be able to if the vehicle was ever involved in an accident, flooding, or any other kind of damage that required an insurance claim.
Examine the Exterior
Oftentimes used car dealers will wash, buff, and wax their used cars so they shine on the lot, but don’t be distracted by a well-polished car. You still want to walk around the car and look at it closely to find any signs of damage or repairs. For instance, you might notice that a paint color seems to be a bit off in certain areas or that something doesn’t seem to be aligned correctly. You also want to check for scratches, dents, or dings that could have been the result of an accident.
You also want to inspect the windshield of the car for any pits, cracks, and ships. If it looks damaged in any way, you will want to have it replaced. Furthermore, check the tires and wheel wells. Old and worn out tires could cost a considerable amount so you want to think about that before purchasing the car. Finally, check the headlights and tail lights by having the salesperson turn them and check to make sure they are working properly.
Examine the Interior
The first thing you might notice when you sit inside a car is the smell. Some buyers are turned off by the smell of cigarette smoke, while a moldy smell can indicate water damage. Once the car passes the smell test, you want to examine the upholstery for cracks, tears, stains, burn holes, or any other damage. If the interior appears to have been poorly maintained, it’s likely that the rest of the car was treated the same way.
Aside from the upholstery, you want to check to make sure that all interior lights are working, as well as turn-signals, rear-view mirrors, electric seats, controls, gauges, and warning lights. Finally, you want to check and make sure the heating and cooling systems are working properly, including the individual zones if applicable.
Look Under the Hood
For many people, looking under the hood of a car is like reading in a foreign language but there are a few simple things you can check. First, you want to check the oil by pulling out the dipstick in the engine compartment and looking at the color of the oil as well as the level. It should be light brown or brown and should be at the appropriate marking line on the dipstick. Oil that is black, gritty, or dirty could be a sign of a serious engine problem. You also want to check other fluids such as brake fluid, coolant, and power steering fluid. Each one has a marking to show you the appropriate level. Lastly, you want to look at the battery and check for rust or corrosion. You can also peek for any loose hoses and belts.
Take it for a Test Drive
It is important to take any used car for a test drive so you can actually see and feel how the vehicle performs. You can listen for unusual noises and you will be able to feel if the vehicle is pulling, sputtering, or doing anything else unusual. This is also a chance to see how the brakes are working as well as things like cruise control, windshield wipers, and audio equipment.
It is always recommended to personally inspect a pre-owned vehicle prior to purchasing it and you should be able to tell a lot from a thorough inspection. However, it is still important to have the car inspected by a specialist who knows exactly what to look for. Performing an inspection may seem like a time-consuming process, but it can save you a great deal of time and money in the long run and it will give you the peace of mind of knowing that you are getting a quality vehicle.