Under The Hood

5 Things to Look for When Buying a Used Car

Every used car has a unique history. While we’d all like to believe that sellers treat their cars with the utmost respect to keep them driving for the long run, accidents happen and it’s better to know before you buy a car if it was once salvaged from the bottom of a Lake Michigan. Hence, it is important to keep an eye out for five important things before you purchase any used car from private sellers.

1. Car History Report

One of the earliest steps in your journey towards the perfect used car is to take a good long look at the car history. The sooner you know that the car you're looking at has a bad history report, the better. Carfax is a reliable source for vehicle history reports. The vehicle history report can reveal important information such as accident history or whether the odometer of the vehicle has been rolled back and if there are any salvage titles on the vehicle indicating it has been deemed to be a total loss by the insurance provider.

2. Interiors

The interior upholstery of the car can provide a more acute insight into the current fettle of the car. Before you make yourself cozy inside the vehicle, take a quick sniff of the interior. A musty, moldy, or mildew smell indicates water leaks. Do not be satisfied with the aesthetics of the upholstery but make sure to try out all the seats inside the vehicle and ensure that seat adjustments work properly. Check all instruments and controls including the air conditioner and the sound system. Also, make sure to take a quick glance at the car roof for stains or sags and maybe, go the extra mile and remove the floor mats to inspect the vehicle floor.

3. Exteriors

Examine each body panel as well as the roof for any scratches, dents or rust. It is also important to inspect the vehicle during daylight to spot any blisters, discoloration or dullness in the paint of the body panels. Look for small ridges of paint along the panel edges, under the window and the hood since these evidences point to a recent paint job. Also, keep an eye out for the alignment of panels. Care must be taken to examine the glass, lights and tires. Any sign of moisture or condensation inside the headlight and taillight lenses indicate potential flood damage. Make sure all the lights, reflectors and window panels are intact. When checking the tires, ensure that the tread wear is even across the width of the tire and the same on the left and right sides of the car. Examine the sidewalls for scuffing, cracks, or bulges, and look on the edge of each rim for dents or cracks. Make sure to check that the spare is in good shape and that the proper jack and lug wrench are present.

4. Taking a Test Drive

Test-driving is the best way to figure out if the vehicle is the right fit for you. It can help determine if the vehicle’s make and model is compatible with your needs. As you start the engine, tune your ears for any humming, thrumming, or whining from the vehicle. Ensure that the steering tracks smooth and straight on an uncrowded road at different speed levels, and that the brakes are working perfectly. Verify that the transmission shifts smoothly, both up and down gears and with heavy and light throttle. While on the drive, ensure that the vehicle offers a comfortable driving position and visibility without any potential blind spots.

5. Pre-purchase Inspection

Make sure that you have the prospective vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic prior to making any purchase decisions. It is important to have the vehicle inspected to avoid potential issues such as leaks, outdated body parts and evidence of unreported accidents. A detailed examination of the body panels for scratches, dents and rusts is essential to determine the condition of the vehicle. It is a simple task for a professional mechanic to determine the engine condition by taking a look under the hood and checking for engine residues, fluid levels, battery and radiator condition.

There you have it. If you take the time to thoroughly inspect a vehicle before buying, you won’t end up with any surprises once you get home. If you don’t feel comfortable evaluating all the different aspects of a car, the good news is that services (like Swap Motors) will send professional mechanics to inspect cars for you. If you’re interested in more of what we have to offer, visit our Marketplace to learn more.