Buying a used car is easier than ever. A quick search online will bring up thousands of websites to browse the latest deals. You can bid for cars on eBay, glance at the private listings on Autotrader or visit dealership websites.
The choice is endless, and that’s before you’ve stepped out of your house and visited the dealers themselves. It can often seem overwhelming, especially for new buyers. How do you make sure you’re getting a good deal?
Well, the most important aspect is to make sure the car is in perfect condition. The last thing you want is to find your new car in the garage two weeks after buying. Here are the vital checks you must do before buying any used car.
Bodywork and paint – First things first, give the car a thorough once-over to look for paintwork damage. You’ll immediately notice any dents or scratches, so look for them first. Next, keep your eyes out for rust. Don’t be afraid to get under the car and inspect the wheel arches too. The telltale signs of creeping rust are small bubbles in the paintwork. They will break out into rust in the near future.
Fluids – Next, it’s time to get under the bonnet. Any professional used car seller will gladly let you inspect the engine and the fluids, so don’t be afraid to ask. Test the oil level with the dipstick, and check the colouring to make sure it’s healthy (you’re looking for a brown colour). Check that there are no leaks in the coolant tank too. These checks will help prove that the car has been well looked after.
Tyres – You can tell a lot about a vehicle’s condition from the tyres. They bear the scars of the road, after all. You’re looking for a tread depth of at least 1.6mm (the legal requirement) and a healthy tyre pressure. Keep your eyes peeled for inconsistent wear too. Uneven tyre wear suggests a deeper problem in the steering or alignment mechanism.
Documentation – Every used car should come complete with a full service history and an MOT certificate. This proves it’s roadworthy and in good health. If the seller can’t show you these two documents, it suggests there are some hidden faults and repairs in the car. You need a full understanding of the car’s history and maintenance before you buy.
Electrics – Most modern cars rely heavily on electronic systems to function. From lights to windows to heating and cooling systems, everything runs on electrics. Turn the engine on and run through a full test of the electric systems. Flick the windscreen wipers on, check the lights, and test all the dashboard elements.
Safety – Finally, make sure the car is fit for safety. Check the seat belt pretensioners work correctly and ask about the spare tyre. Double check the airbag light flashes on when the engine starts too.
If you’ve completed each and every one of these checks, congratulations, you’re ready to buy! Your vehicle is fit for the road, and you’ve got plenty of good miles ahead.