Used car buying checklist

Buying a secondhand car can be a minefield, especially if you're purchasing it 'sold as seen' from a private seller. Here are some simple tips on how to inspect a used car, so you don't get caugh...

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Jim Holder
7 Jan 2018 12:55 | Last updated: 13 Jun 2018 19:52

If you’re buying a used car, you will need to check the general condition of the car. A poorly maintained vehicle could cause you a string of problems later on.

If buying privately, used cars are usually ‘sold as seen’, so check everything carefully. It is also advisable to check the vehicle's history to make sure the car is what it claims to be.

Here are the key points worth closer inspection:

  • Check the condition of the tyres. Don’t forget tread depth and sidewall damage. If a tyre has uneven wear, it could be a sign that the wheels are not correctly aligned.

  • The steering wheel should rotate smoothly from lock to lock without any unusual noise or vibration.

  • The gears should engage easily and smoothly without any grinding with the clutch fully depressed. A weak or extremely stiff clutch pedal could be a sign of worn components.

  • The engine should idle smoothly and rev evenly. Check the oil dipstick and the inside of the oil filler cap. If you find a brown sludge, walk away; the engine is damaged and will need expensive repairs.

  • Check the exhaust doesn’t produce lots of blue smoke when you rev the engine. This is a sign of excessive internal engine wear.

  • Check the bodywork and underside of the car for rust. Look at the exhaust system; does it look like it needs replacing soon?

  • Be suspicious of a very clean engine bay. Has it been cleaned to hide something?

  • While under the bonnet, look for signs of flaking paint and rust around the panel joints at the front of the car. This could denote repairs that were made after crash damage.

  • Does the wear on the interior of the car match the mileage on the odometer? A low-mileage car with very worn seats and pedals could have been clocked.

  • Open and close the doors to check they work correctly, and examine the rubber seals for signs of paint, another indication of crash-damage repairs.

  • Look down the side of the car to see if all the panels and bodywork line up smoothly. Be suspicious of wavy panels or cars with uneven gaps between panels.

  • When on a test drive, the brakes should feel responsive and provide adequate stopping power when travelling at speed.

  • Check all items work correctly, including electric components. This should include windows, sunroofs and electrically adjustable seats, as well as the stereo and infotainment system.

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