Four Inspections To Do Before Buying a Used Car

March 24th, 2017 by

Car electrician troubleshooting a car engine

Shopping for a used car comes with its fair share of risks, especially if you’re considering a vehicle from a private seller. There’s no way to really evaluate the mechanics of the car, so a customer may not truly recognize any issues until after they’ve made a purchase.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that a potential buyer can take prior to making a purchase. Whether you’re buying from a reputable dealership or an unknown seller, a thorough self-inspection is absolutely necessary. Buyers can identify warning signs in multiple places, including the interior, exterior, and under the hood. Clear causes for concern should be noted, as they may be enough to dissuade you from making a purchase.

We’ve provided a thorough checklist for you below, which should come in handy as you start to search for a used vehicle. When you finally decide to visit used car dealers, this information could be the difference between purchasing a reliable vehicle or (gulp) a lemon.

Inspection #1: Pre-Visit Research

Your research on a used car should start much earlier than your first encounter with the vehicle. Before you commit to any test drive or visit, make sure you do an extensive search of the car’s history. Major gaps in trips to the mechanic could be a cause for concern, especially if the vehicle is older. These reports should flood you with information, so a scant history record may not be legitimate.

Furthermore, these history reports could clue you in to unreliable mileage. Some sellers will predictably manipulate their odometer to reflect a younger and fresher vehicle. There’s no easy way to detect whether this is the case, but a potential buyer may be able to identify a particularly egregious listing.

Inspection #2: Exterior

There are some general features you’ll want to inspect when you’re looking at a used car, including the quality of the windshield wipers, the paint job, rust, and any pieces of the trim. While these inadequacies won’t indicate a more sinister problem with the car, they could at least be used to negotiate a lower asking price.

Some of these body issues could be a warning sign, however. Consistent rust is a clear sign that the vehicle wasn’t taken care of, and there’s a good chance that those signs of decline have worked their way into the car’s mechanics. Meanwhile, odd paint jobs may signal any accidents or fender benders.

Once you work your way down to the wheels, you may be able to identify larger problems. Curb damage on the base of the wheels could be a reflection on a poor driver, which may mean the mechanics are more taxed than those in a usual used car. Furthermore, they could be an indication of a larger accident that may have gone unreported. While you’re down there, shoddy tires are an obvious warning sign, as are any loose or missing lug nuts.

Inspection #3: Interior

Most car buyers can expect to spend much of their time inside their car, so it’s important that the interior is to their liking. Tears and cracks are certainly unsightly, and you could save yourself a chunk of cash if you point these issues out while negotiating. Worn or uneven upholstery could also be an indication of extensive interior damage.

For instance, water damage would have resulted in soggy and moldy carpet, so an owner surely would have replaced the worst parts. Water damage is a particularly worrisome issue that could have been hidden by the seller, and potential buyers can also find traces of such damage under the seats or in the glove box.

Speaking of moldy, that musty smell is an indication that much of the interior needs to be replaced. Sure, these issues may not impact the drive quality, but it’s unsafe to consistently drive in these conditions. As a result, you’ll likely have to dish out additional money for a renovation after you’ve made the purchase.

Meanwhile, potential buyers will also want to check that every feature is working properly. This includes automatic windows or interior climate control, as these both impact the car’s ride quality.

An extensive inspection of the engine and underbody is essential when you’re in the market for a used car. There are plenty of minor problems that may present cause for concern, but those are easily overshadowed by the absolute deal-breakers.

Any sludge or grime that’s accumulated around the engine is a problem, as are any parts that show obvious signs of decay. When you’re inspecting the engine, you’ll also want to check the dipstick. A gooey, dark substance on the stick could clue you into possible issues with oil, as could a distinct gasoline smell. Furthermore, a thorough look at the automatic transmission dipstick (if applicable) is also necessary, as black particles or dark liquids prove that the system hasn’t been serviced in a while.

A test drive will provide more warning signs regarding the vehicle’s mechanics. An odd knocking sign coming from the engine could be indicative of a major problem, and it’s especially worrisome if the sound gets louder or more rapid as you accelerate. A car may also have a general dragging feeling that’s natural with age, and that could be a clear indication that the car is on its final leg.

If you follow these steps, you should reduce the chance that you drive home in an inadequate vehicle. You’re making a pretty large purchase, even if you are opting for a used car. Therefore, it’s important that you dedicate the necessary time and research to get yourself a reliable, working ride.

Buyers can further minimize their risk by avoiding private sellers entirely and visiting an actual dealership instead. Often times, dealerships will require that their used vehicles undergo significant tests to demonstrate their quality, and these dealers may even attach some type of warranty to their used options.

If you live in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, you shouldn’t consider any other option than McCluskey. Their used vehicles are both reliable and affordable, so you should have absolutely zero worries as you drive off the lot in one of their used cars.

Posted in Used Car Dealers