Most of us need cars to simply live our lives at home and at work. Unfortunately they don’t last forever. They are usually one of the biggest expenses we can have, so it’s essential that we choose wisely when getting a replacement.
Many people choose to buy a secondhand car in order to save money. The resulting purchase will be either a bargain, good value for money, or a finance-guzzling mistake.
This article will help you know what to look for when seeking a used car.
1. A well-maintained car or one guaranteed by a professional
Some people know enough about cars to recognise if anything is substandard. Even such things as ripped upholstery can give a clear indication of poor care and maintenance. Anyone who doesn’t know much about cars should either bring an experienced person with them or seek a used car garage that provides a car warranty.
It is possible to search for cars online. A typical website might allow people to view used cars separately to brand new ones. People may be able to enter a specific model in the search box, or click a button for ‘wagon’, ‘AWD’ or ‘electric’ etc.
Car garage sites will generally state their opening hours, and whether finance is available. Most web pages also include maps and directions for visitors.
2. A good engine
Only a knowledgeable person will know what to look for in a head gasket. Fortunately, most people know how to look for leaks, check the oil levels and assess the exhaust fumes.
People need to ask: How does the engine sound when it is running? Are there any strange noises? People are unlikely to know whether the cam belt has been replaced by simply looking at it. They should instead check the car mileage and documentation.
3. Do a test drive to check the brakes, gearbox and clutch, plus the wheels and tyres
A test drive is essential for would-be buyers of used cars, but they must make sure they are insured for it! Allow thirty minutes for the journey and don’t look at the car when it’s dark or pouring with rain.
Assess how quickly the brakes kick into action, and whether the car lurches to one side when stopping. Are there any odd noises occuring during the drive, or is poor suspension resulting in constant vibration?
Check how the car copes with gear changes, and assess the bite of the clutch. Look closely at the tyres. Ask: are the tires compatible? How is the tread depth? Has wear and tear made the tyres dangerous and in need of replacement?
4. Trouble-free bodywork
Warning bells need to sound if there are gaps in the panels or areas are painted differently. Some cars that have previously been in an accident are illegally welded together.
Check under the carpets inside for clues. Has damage or rust been painted over? Has the whole car been repainted in a different colour?
Some unscrupulous sales people do not use the actual car in the advertised picture, so it’s essential to view before buying. It’s also important to check the car underside for any issues such as rust or overpainted damage, so be sure to bring a torch for the visit.
5. A working interior
The car will not be roadworthy if the seat belts are broken. The dashboard should be checked during the journey. Look for service alerts and other warnings. Check all the lights, windscreen wipers and windows are in full working order.
Look at the dashboard mileage figure. Check this against any documentation and see if it looks right for its age. Look online for suggestions if in doubt. Any possible amendments to the log book should also raise concern.
Check inside the boot. If the car has a spare tyre, is it in working order and fully inflated? Are there general tools including locking wheel nuts stored there?
6. Valid documentation
Check that the name of the seller matches the name in the car log book. Also check the vehicle registration number. Ensure it has been regularly serviced and has an up to date MOT certificate. Look at the service history, including repairs and details of previous accidents.
It may be possible to make an online history check, to ensure there is no outstanding finance on the car. The search might reveal that the car was previously written off or was stolen.
Look online to get a gauge as to the right price to pay for the vehicle. If a wise choice is made, it may be possible to enjoy the car for many years without too much expense. A poor choice could be very costly, however.
Anyone who is unconfident about cars is strongly recommended to bring a mechanic with them, or buy from a garage that will guarantee the car for a period of time.