Purchasing a vehicle can be a huge decision, especially since the investment involved in a big one. We all want to make the right choice in that arena, and more so when you’re opting for used cars.
With newer models and features sprouting every year, many people have been opting for used cars as opposed to driving out a fresh one from the showroom. A relatively cheaper option, buying a used car comes with its own sets of rules and checklist.
Imagine driving off with a car, only to realize that it has some defects that need to be addressed. Nobody likes to spend extra money on maintenance right after spending a fortune on the purchase of the machine. If you’re buying through a dealer, you still have a protective shelter. But if you’re planning to go private, you will have to make a few checks and tests yourself to make sure you’re not getting duped.
Let’s take a look at what to look for when buying a used car:
Checking the Paperwork
Before you proceed with other checks, the first step to authenticate the purchase is by having a look at all the required documents. Every car owner has a set of documents that depicts the vital information of the vehicle, along with its maintenance and accident records, previous owners, mileage, and much more.
Here are some of the paperwork that should be available before you decide to move on with the purchase:
V5C Registration Certificate (Logbook)
The logbook is an essential record of the car’s history, the current registered owner, and previous owners (if any). If you are planning to buy the car, the seller will complete and send the book to DVLA, after which you will receive a new one after 2-4 weeks.
Make sure you look up all the information from the official government website before proceeding with it.
It is important to have in-depth information about the vehicle you’re planning to take home. It is said that one in 3 cars have a hidden history, which makes it all the more essential to find the relevant information and then match it with the current status.
It is quite simple to get the vehicle information from DVLA on the UK government website which includes the manufacture date, SORN status, engine size, MOT dates, tax information, first registration, etc.
An MOT certificate is essential for every car which is older than three years as, without a valid MOT certificate, your vehicle will not be useable on the road – and there are heavy fines for driving without a valid MOT.
Make sure you check the MOT due date, as well as old MOT certificates which will give you an honest view of the quality and mileage of the car. Match the vehicle registration and chassis number.
Apart from the aforementioned paperwork, make sure you check the car tax as it cannot be transferred with the vehicle.
A visual inspection is one of the easiest checks you can carry out with a used car. You just have to keep your eyes open for any signs of accidents, repair, chips and dents, etc; anything that might give you an insight into the history of the car. For instance, a chipped front is indicative of heavy motorway miles, whereas panel gaps and improper door seals could be a poor cover-up job.
Take a good look at the car body, looking for any rust on the metal parts as it can force the paint off and then eventually rust through it. Moreover, it will do you well to check for any evidence of crash damage, poor repairs, panel gaps, unusual welding under the bonnet/boot, and the front and rear conditions.
In addition to the checks above, look for signs of damage to the seat, the windscreen, wheel and tyres, pedal rubbers, and all the electricals, whether they are working or not. Inspect the tyres and the spare wheels, keeping in mind that the legal tread depth should be 1.6mm across the width of the tyre. Also, take a look at the wheel alignment, whether it is accurately placed or needs further adjusting.
If you are unsure about how to carry on the changes, you can always contact a car repair garage.
The engine is known as the ‘heart of the vehicle’ and we ought to give it a thorough check before moving forward with the purchase. There are a few inspections that you can carry out on your own to gauge the health of the engine.
- When you are taking your car for a test drive, keep an eye on the exhaust smoke and be on the lookout for any unusual noises.
- One of the essential elements that are needed for the efficient functioning of the car engine is oil. Make sure you take the ‘dipstick check’ to understand if there is a service pending or issue arising. Brown oil is never a good sign!
- Make sure you start the car when it is cold. If the bonnet seems warm when you’re planning to turn on the ignition, it could be a sign of hidden problems.
- A significant amount of smoke is never a positive sign. Make sure you keep an eye on the kind of smoke the car is emitting when turned on and also while driving. If you see any unusual coloured smoke, the car might be in need of an exhaust repair.
- Take a look at the coolant, fluid levels, and the battery before taking your final decision.
- To ensure there are no pending issues with the head gasket or damage within the engine, take a peek under the engine oil cap. If there is any presence of a thick white substance, it indicates a problem.
- Check for leaks after a test drive.
Miscellaneous Checks – Steering, Brakes, Clutch, Gears and Suspension
While turning your wheels, it is essential to listen for any whining sounds, squeals, or intense judders coming from the steering. Keep in mind that a slight whining sound is normal on power steering, but at the same time, your car shouldn’t pull to one side.
Another component that you have to keep an eye on is the brakes. Brake noises are a very common issue that arises when a car is ageing. Try to feel for any vibrations, rubbing noises when braking and also ensuring that everything is going the smooth way.
Apart from the brakes and the steering, look for any ‘crunching’ signs when you’re trying out all the gears. The clutch working should be smooth to ensure that you don’t have to go for replacement soon after buying the car. The functioning should be smooth, and more so when you’re riding through a bumpy road. This will test out the working of the suspension as well.
Make sure you take your time to inspect the vehicle you are planning to buy, especially if the owners are rushing you through it. In the end, you can always drive to a service centre to get an authentic, professional view of the car.