Buying your first car is one of the very first (huge) investments you’ll be making as you enter society as a full-fledged working adult. But contrary to popular belief (or rather some belief), buying a car is not as simple and straightforward as buying a pack of chips at the corner store.
Buying a car requires you to check a myriad of factors before you put pen to paper including, most importantly, your monthly budget, the type of car you’re buying and its specs, parking and all associated driving/road fees, and many, many more.
And these complex requirements are probably a lot more evident when it comes to the art of buying used cars. But fret not, as we’re here to assist you with some tips for buying your very own used car. Without further ado, here are some of the things you should review when purchasing any used cars.
Check The Paintwork
This includes checking for knicks and knocks on the paintwork, as well as the body panels, engine bay, and even the underside of the car. After all, first impressions matter.
The car’s physical appearance will be one of the first things you check, so always inspect the car in daylight as you’ll be able to easily discern the true condition of the car’s body. Minor scratches, dents, and wear and tear are fine but you should definitely lookout for any noticeable uneven gaps in the body panels along with any uneven reflection as this could possibly indicate that the car has been in an accident.
Here’s a tip. Instead of looking at the paint job directly, position your line of sight parallel to the car’s body and take note of the reflections from the sun’s rays.
Check The Rest of The Exterior
Likewise, you should also take a closer look at the condition of the rubber strips running along the door of the car. Are they cracked or totally obliterated by constant use? Some are easily replaceable, whereas others such as windscreen rubber seals may be more pricey so take that into consideration as well.
Rust spots are also a sore spot for some cars, thus it would bode you well to avoid such cars. Do check for these spots at some common areas on a car like the roof of the car, the bulkhead area in the engine bay, the wheel arches, and even underneath the floor carpet.
Speaking of underneath, take a look under the car to look for any visible damage on the floorboard, chassis rail, or any of the mechanical parts. And while you’re at it, check for the tyre and wheel condition. Look for any uneven wear or mismatched tyres as this could indicate that the owner doesn’t have a particularly great (or regular) maintenance habit.
Last but certainly not least, you should also turn on the headlamps and signal lights to check if they’re at least working. If they are, you should then move on to check whether they have any uneven discolouration to them. This is a sign that the car has been involved in an accident and the part was replaced by a cheaper, non-original part.
Bonus Tip: If you know what you’re doing, also go under the hood to check for any cracked hoses in the engine bay or rusty water in the radiator or any potential fluid leaks.
Get A Comprehensive Service History Report
This is pretty self-explanatory as a full-service record with comprehensive service history is an excellent indication of how well the car has been taken care of by its previous owner.
In particular, look out for the date of servicing since you may determine whether it was done on time or after it was overdue — another good indicator of a healthy car maintenance habit. One good sign is a used car that comes with a thick file of receipts for the work done on it throughout its usage with its previous owner.
And if a car owner or used car dealer does not offer you any service history, it’d be better to avoid buying it and move on to your next prospect.
Test The Interior
This is another important aspect to consider when buying a used car: Does the air-conditioning work?
If the car’s air-cond isn’t cold or has a bad smell or makes funny noises, it’ll be better to skip over this one. Air conditioning repairs can be fairly pricey and you’ll be better off buying a new car.
Also, check the other interior features in the car like the power windows, windscreen wipers, signals, instrument panel lights, etc. to make sure everything is in working order before you part ways with your hard-earned cash.Look around the interior for any major scuff marks as it can be a little expensive to fix or replace certain interior components.
Along with that, check for any signs of mold or moisture as it could very well mean you have a water leak on your hands — which is troublesome to fix, to say the least.
Take It For A Test Drive
Of course, the most anticipated part of buying a car is to take it for a spin. Granted, you won’t be able to take it out for a long drive but even a short test drive can afford you some perspective that you may have otherwise missed. Take note of the feel of the car including how its absorbers react to impact, the engine sounds, the alignment of the steering wheel, as well as any creaking or odd sounds.
There’s definitely no need to push the car to the limits on your initial test drive. Instead, simply check if the car starts up smoothly (ignition), whether it idles well, and whether there are any abnormalities in the power steering. On your drive, make a slow, tight U-turn as this is one of the easiest ways to uncover any potential issues with the steering or suspension system in a car.