How to Inspect a Used Car Before Purchasing

Used Car

Buying a used car can be tricky. You want to get the best deal, but you also want to make sure that the vehicle is in good condition before putting any money down on it. Your next car can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. That’s why you should do the necessary research beforehand to ensure your investment is worth every penny. There are many components of a car that you should inspect before making a purchase, so let’s talk about them.

1) Exterior

When you’re looking at a used car, walk around it and look for any signs of damage. Look for chips, cracks, or scrapes in the paint job and dents on the body panels. Don’t forget to look inside the trunk to see if there’s anything off or damaged, too. Look at the glass of the car. Make sure there aren’t any cracks or small chips that could potentially worsen in the near future. If you do find cracks, see if the seller is willing to pay for the repair.

Take your time and walk around the car at least two or three times. Try not to miss anything that can be expensive to repair down the road. Keep in mind that you might find something that looks questionable from one angle but is completely normal from another. So, examine closely! When you purchase a vehicle, important documents will be stored by the dealership in deal jackets.

2) Tires

Look at the treads and make sure they’re in good condition. Check for scuffing, cracks, and dents on each wheel. The tire tread should be at least one inch deep and uniform on all four tires. In short, the tires should all be the same. It’s a huge red flag if you find that one of the tires is different from the rest. The previous driver may have been involved in an accident. If the tires have been replaced, ask the seller why.

The tire pressure should be checked, too. You’ll want to do that with a gauge to make sure it’s at the right PSI. There should be enough air in the tires—somewhere between 34 and 38 pounds per square inch. You may need to get a hand pump for this.

3) Interior

Once you’re done looking at the car’s exterior, head inside to examine the condition. See if anything smells weird. A funky odor, such as one that comes from a smoker, can be difficult to get rid of. A moldy smell can be an indicator of a water leak.

Check the condition of the seats. Ensure all the seat buckles work, the front seats are comfortable to sit in, and can be adjusted. The backseats should be in good condition, too. Turn on the sound system to make sure the radio, auxiliary, and CD player work normally. If the car has Bluetooth, try connecting your phone to see if that works as well. Sit in the driver’s seat and look at all the mirrors. Make sure they can all be adjusted properly and that there’s nothing wrong with them. Open the glove departments and try out the cup holders.

Most importantly, check all the pedals to ensure they’re functioning well. One of your top priorities when buying a new car should be safety. Take the car for a small test drive to see if anything feels off. But before you go, ensure the turn signals are working. Then, pay close attention to how the brakes and gas pedal feel, and the clutch if the car has one.

Listen closely for any unusual sounds. Close all the windows if you hear anything strange to see if it’s coming from the car or not. While you’re at it, try closing and opening all the windows to see if there are any problems with them. Use the windshield wipers, the heater, air conditioner, horn, emergency brake, and all other features to ensure they’re working properly.

4) Under the hood

The next important inspection is under the hood. A quick glance is necessary, and if you’re not a car expert, it’s best to consult with an automotive expert. Feel free to take pictures if you don’t know what you’re looking at.

Check that the engine has been well maintained. It’s normal for there to be dust and dirt, but nothing dangerous like oil or corrosion. This is especially true when looking at the battery. It should be clean, with no wires hanging loose. Quite frankly, if you find anything hanging loose, it could be a potential hazard.

Examine the fluids to make sure they’re at a proper level. And check the hoses. Are they in good shape? Look for any leaks or damage to them, as it may indicate a problem with the cooling system. Check the belts for wear and cracks. Then, inspect the exhaust system, which can reveal a lot about the car’s condition.

5) Above and below

If possible, look at the roof of the car. The roof is usually exposed to a lot of sun and can show signs of wear. If you see any missing pieces, they may be from a hail storm or some other kind of weather condition. Determine if there’s anything up there that may need repairing. If there’s a sunroof, ensure it’s also in working order.

The last area to inspect is below the car. Check the tailpipe for residue and rust. A little rust is okay, but anything major may require a new exhaust system. The key inspection here is to look for leaks. You should not see any oil drips or green or red fluid leaking anywhere. This is a very bad sign of damage.

Again, if you don’t know what you’re looking at, consult with an autobody expert. Take pictures and write notes if there’s something you want to show them. Once you get some advice or feedback, see if you still want to make the purchase.