Typically, it’s much smarter to purchase a used car than it is to purchase a new one. Dealerships have to sell a brand new car at something of a markup, so the second you drive one off the lot, you lose money that you won’t be able to make back if you sell it to someone else down the line. When you buy a used car, though, you can often find a really good deal. Of course, dealerships sell used cars that have been certified and inspected, but private sellers usually don’t do this type of thing. You must make sure, then, that you properly inspect a used car before you consider buying it. It’s a lot easier to wind up getting a lemon when you’re buying a used car from a private seller. We’ll talk about five of the best strategies that go behind inspecting a used car before you buy it.
1. Spot Major Body Repair. If you’re going to buy a used car from a private seller, you should always make sure you get something like a CarFax report, so you can know whether or not the car was involved in any serious accidents. Even if you don’t do this, however, you can still spot evidence of major body repair pretty easily. Look for any inconsistencies in the car’s body. If the frame doesn’t look like it’s aligned properly, or if the hood and the door panels don’t quite line up with other parts of the body, this is usually a sign that there was some serious damage at one point.
2. Beware of Rust. Check the car for rust, because this can indicate some serious problems. You never want to purchase a car that’s dealing with a serious amount of rust on its body. If the paint is new, ask how recently it was applied. A cheap paint job might have been added to the car to help disguise some rust. Check the bumpers and wheel wells — if you find rust, it’s likely that there’s more.
3. Engine Check. Make sure you give the engine a thorough check before you test drive it or do anything else. Try starting it. The engine should start immediately, without any hesitation. Look at the engine; make sure it’s outwardly clean. If you see any rust around the exhaust manifold or oil leaking from the head gasket, this is a serious problem. You should also check the oil dipstick. Rub some of the oil between two fingers. If it has particles in it, this means that the engine is worn down or has other problems. You should also make sure the car has its smog certification, if your state requires such a thing.
4. Check the Interior Thoroughly. Inspect the car’s interior for excessive wear or damage. You might find tears in the upholstery, or simply discover that the interior has become sun-damaged from too much airport car parking. Whatever the case may be, look around and make sure the car’s interior is in good shape, as it’s where you’ll be spending all your time.
5. Always Test Drive. Make sure you test drive any used car you’re thinking about buying. The breaks should be responsive and should not squeal. Make sure the transmission works well and that you can change gears without hearing a grinding sound if the car features a manual transmission. This is a good chance to make sure that all of the external lights work, and you should also test the windshield wipers, horn, and other important parts of the car. Used cars are great for saving money, but it’s important that you inspect them thoroughly to avoid getting a bad deal on your next automobile.