11 practical tips for checking used cars


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Read on to figure out what to look for when inspecting a used car.

“Are used cars operating well still?”, “Does it have any serious problems hidden?”, “Did you get a good deal?” There are many questions coming up when you decide to buy a used car. However, the two question haunting them are: “Do I pay for a good one?” and “Do I buying other’s troubles? Not only that, a challenging question is should you purchase a car from a dealer or an individual.

Most people believe that car owners will never sell their cars if the cars don't have too serious problems that they are sick of repairing or it costs too much of to repair.

But not all used cars are trash. It is possible that the car lease expires, or car owners just feel interested in another car. An advice when selecting used cars is looking at the speedometers. They reveal count of mileage the car has gone so it helps identify these used cars are deployed little or much. 

It is advisable that you purchase a used car from an individual since you can meet them in person to ask them detailed information about the car’s repair history and the maintenance and whether the car is well-functioning and reliable to drive.

If you would like a used car from a used car lot, you can’t ask for a vehicle history. Even though there is any of such document left in the glovebox, it will be thrown away by dealers to hide the history of the car. Worse still, they are likely to make up the repair record and maintenance history though some dealers are honest with their customers about repair and replacement that they have made on the car. In such case, don't hesitate to ask them for warranty coverage.

>>> You might also want to read: How to check a tokunbo car for accident damage

Below are critical items to check when inspecting a used car.

1. Always request a test drive

It is the fundamental benefits of any secondhand buyers. Don't just rush into a choice by the car's shinning or eye-catching appearance. A test drive should take quite long time because not all problems come up on the first try. More importantly, your feeling when driving does affect your choice. If it is not comfortable, and you fell something wrong like a weird smell, sound or light, walk away before there is no chance for giving it back.

a girl driving a car

Don't just rush into a choice by the car's shinning or eye-catching appearance

2. Opening the hood and checking carefully to find visual problems

Some will be obvious because dealers cannot hide, but most of the related-engine problems need to examine by mechanics.

3. Checking the oil level using a dipstick

an oil checking dipstick

In case the oil is dark, it means that the oil has not been changed for a long time

If the oil level is low, there are two possibilities: the engine is burning or oil is leaking. In case the oil is dark, it means that the oil has not been changed for a long while.

4. Checking the transmission dipstick

If you see clearly the fluid is red or pink, this used car is still running well. In contrast, dark brown or burned smell is a warning to you that this car has problems.

5. Checking the battery

battery checking

If the date code shows the battery is over 4 to 5 years old, it reaches the final limit

Batteries of some models povide a date code, looking for it. If the date code shows the battery is over 4 to 5 years old, it reaches the final limit. Plus, if you find severely corroded battery post or terminal, or the posts show signs of being jumped, this car may have a recent starting problem.

6. Reading the odometer

It tells you how many miles the used cars have been driven and you can consider your choice. But, low miles on the odometer doesn't always equal a good car. Another criterion is depending on the type of cars. Highway cars will be better than short-haul cars since short-haul cars must stop and go all the time, it pushes the engine on and off too often, so it does bad for the engine. A 1000-mile highway car on the odometer, for example, is likely to have better engine condition compared to a 700-mile stop-and-go car driving in the city. One thing I want to emphasize that mileage on the odometer, even a digital odometer, can absolutely be rolled back to lower numbers. The reason is dealers know that lower mileages let the buyers rush into this car.


Low miles on the odometer doesn't always equal a good car

7.  Looking at the tires

Uneven wear usually indicates worn suspension parts that might be expensive to replace.

8. Turning on and off repeatedly to check whether the engines still work well or not

Checking from the smallest parts: turn signals, heater, wipers, lights, air conditioner, radio, power door locks, etc. Every problem you can find will be useful to down the deal. It's all for your benefits.

9. Watching out for flood-damaged vehicles

flooded car

Water could cause long-standing, financial issues with wiring and electronic modules

Water could cause long-standing, financial issues with electronic modules and wiring. Search for mud stains or water left on the carpet in the trunk, and under the hood and on door upholstery.

>>> You might also want to check out: How to spot a flood-damaged tokunbo car?

10. Taking a short test drive. It is vital to evaluate how the car engine is going

It is important that you as the driver and passengers feel right and comfortable. Does it start easily and quickly? When you accelerate, does it stumble? In addition, don't forget checking brakes, steering, noise, systems. If you want to be a more careful test, turn off the radio when you starting to hear clearly the noise.

11. Inspecting light, wiper, in foster, radio, heater, power door, and other accessories

These systems are obvious to check with eyes without any specific knowledge requirement. Any problem you can find, it's your base to negotiate the lower price. Don't hesitate to bargain.

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