Buying a used vehicle, particularly in today's economy, can be challenging. Inflated prices, increased demand, and rising fuel costs all mean that you and everyone else in the market for these vehicles are usually after the same things.
The used vehicle inspection process is a critical step in understanding how to buy a used car. Looking at just the odometer or the condition of the interior alone can be a big mistake, overlooking hidden issues a vehicle may have. Before you buy, it's always best to have someone who knows what they're doing, like your mechanic, do a used car inspection for you. Careful inspection will help identify any issues that might otherwise remain hidden while also allowing you to avoid purchasing a total lemon.
Rust is an issue that should be concerning on any vehicle because over time, it weakens metal and can cause a vehicle to be unsafe. If you notice blistered paint on a panel, this can be an indication that it's hiding rust underneath. Always check the undercarriage and under the hood as well because rust in these areas can cause structural issues that impact the safety of a car.
Tires can be a great indicator of how well the car was cared for and how hard it's been driven. Check the treads for uneven wear, paying close attention to the shoulders on the front tires as more aggressive driving tends to wear these spots unevenly. Grab each tire near the top and try to move it back and forth with your hands. If you experience a lot of movement or hear any clunking sounds when you do this, it could be an indicator that wheel or suspension components are worn.
Press down on each corner of the vehicle using your hands and the weight of your body. If the car bounces up and down or performs differently on each corner, then this could indicate worn suspension components as well.
CHECK THE INTERIOR
While a vehicle can perform fine and be completely reliable, even with a dirty interior, the condition of a used car's interior can be an indicator of how the car was used and if it was cared for well. Be sure to smell for any signs of mildew or mold that could indicate a leak or moisture is getting into the car.
CHECK UNDER THE HOOD
Inspect under the hood for any issues. Squeeze hoses to ensure the rubber is firm but supple, paying close attention to any cracks. Check drive belts for the proper tension and any signs of wear or cracking. Check that the fluids are their proper color and pull the oil dipstick to look for any water droplets or gray oil that could be an indication of blown head gasket or cracked engine blocks, both of which are deal breakers when it comes to buying a used car.
ASK FOR A MECHANIC TO INSPECT
Any seller with a vehicle worth your money shouldn't have a problem if you want to take it for a test drive over to your trusted mechanic for inspection. Beware of any seller who refuses to let you do this or will only sell a car to you “as is.”
CHECK THE VEHICLE'S ACCIDENT AND REPAIR HISTORY
Using the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) found in the corner of the windshield or inside the driver's side door panel, check services like Carfax, VINcheckup, or Autocheck to get an accident and repair history. This can help call out any accidents or hidden repair issues that should be a concern.
Used vehicles are a fantastic, cost-effective alternative to buying a new vehicle off the showroom floor. In many cases, used cars allow drivers to get into the vehicle of their dreams affordably. But taking the time to fully inspect a used car is critical, no matter how badly you want it. Full inspections will ensure that your money goes toward a used car purchase that will remain reliable for as long as you own it.