Top Tips On Buying Used Cars

Michelle Joe
Buying a used car requires guile and finesse, especially if you have limited funds.  You can’t afford to be scammed, so make a wise decision.  Don’t get pressured or rush into a deal.  Whether you buy a car from a dealer or a private seller, take your time and look at the following key points.
You don’t have to be an expert, but knowing the tricks of the trade sure helps.  After all, the last thing you want is to spend your entire savings on a lemon.

Research Vehicle History

Since a lot of information is readily available online, check to see if there are any reports about accidents or theft.   You will need the vehicle ID number (VIN) to determine whether the vehicle information matches the specifics.  Research any reviews about the make and model to see if there are common problems.  Also, check the service history to see if it’s regularly maintained.

Take a Detailed Look

Always inspect the prospective car in daylight on a clear day. This is the best way to ensure a thorough view of the car’s condition.  Ideally, take someone with you, especially if they have additional knowledge about cars.  It’ll be easier to decide with a second opinion.
Check the advert descriptions; they should match the car.  If anything is nicked or damaged and hasn’t been mentioned, then you can ask for a discount.  Walk around the vehicle and closely inspect it from each angle.  Check all panels for scratches, dents, or rust, especially the roof, hood, and trunk. Squat down and look for waviness or unevenness.  If you notice any, this indicates previous body damage.
Then stand back and check that the seams of the car are straight.  With your eyes, follow the body panels between the fenders and the doors, and between the hood and fenders.  Make sure that the seams maintain an equal width along the entire length.


Check the condition of the tread on the main tires.   The minimum legal depth is 2/32″ (1.6mm).  Make sure that the wear is even across the tires.  Be wary of uneven wear.  It may be an indication of alignment problems, possibly due to an accident.
While you’re at it, don’t forget the spare tire.  If it’s bald or damaged, it’ll need to be replaced.  So, negotiate a discount.  The complete tire changing kit including a jack and wrench should be present.

Test drive

We want any car that has top functionality, so it’s crucial that you test drive it. When taking the vehicle out, try it on a variety of routes for at least half an hour.  It’s important to get a feel for the car, especially if it’s different from what you’re used to.  Make sure the brakes stop the car in a straight line.  The gears should change smoothly without crunching.  The steering wheel shouldn’t move excessively when locked, nor should it vibrate or stick.  Turning the steering wheel should take the same effort whether it’s turned to the left or the right.
Listen carefully as you test drive. The engine should sound smooth, without any rattles, squeaks or squeals no matter what type of road you’re driving on. There shouldn’t be humming, thrumming, or whining sounds from any part of the automobile.


It’s also worth revving the engine as hard as you can.  Check to see if any black or blue smoke appears, which means that the engine is burning too much oil.  Another sign of trouble is if there is black, greasy residue inside the tailpipe.  The engine could be due for an overhaul.
Check all the fluids to ensure they’re clear and have the right color – light brown for motor oil and green, blue, or orange for radiator coolant.   There shouldn’t be any oil spots on the ground under the car.  Check for cracked hoses, loose belts, or corrosion around the battery terminals.

Check the basics

While you’re in the car, don’t forget to investigate the stereo, AC, heating, lights, and all other gadgets included in the vehicle such as GPRS, wifi, Bluetooth features, USB port, auxiliary cable, etc.  If you’re going to pay for the car, everything should be in working order.  Turn on all the lights and signals.  Walk around to see if they all work.  Check the locks and remote keys.  They should function without any glitches.  Remember to inspect every door as well as the boot.  Don’t forget to test the key manually too.


Look closely at the color and gloss of each panel, especially if the car is silver, metallic white, metallic red or gold.  If a panel appears darker or lighter than the one next to it, ask why there is a difference.  It’s probably been repainted.  Carefully inspect just inside the hood, trunk, and doors for paint that’s duller than the surrounding panels. This is an indication that there is overspray on the adjacent panel and is cause for suspicion.

Rust Spots

While you’re looking under the car, check spots, especially along the edges and under the corners. Look along the bottoms of the door sills because this is usually the first place where rust forms.

Magnetic Attraction

Bring a magnet along with you to see if it’s pulled uniformly toward the panels, including the doors, fenders, trunk, and the edge of the hood.  If you feel an uneven attraction anywhere, it’s a sign that there’s body filler under the paint, an indication of previous bodywork.  Be careful not to scratch the paint while you’re checking.

Flood Problems

Look for potential flood damage by checking the headlight and taillight lenses.  If there are any signs of moisture or condensation inside, it’s a sure sign of being underwater.  Also look for any muddy or dirty residue in a hard to reach areas such as under the carpet of pedals or front seats.  And if you can smell musty, moldy, or mildew odor in the interior or trunk, that could indicate water damage.
Most importantly, think about how the car will accommodate your daily routine.  Remember to pick a vehicle that has enough room for your family, pets, shopping or any equipment that your professional needs require.  A car is a significant investment, so buy a used car wisely.  It’s important to focus on what you need and not what you want.

Author Bio: Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on twitter: @michellejoe524

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