Inspecting a used car
Unused extra space can be a waste, with bigger cars often costing more to buy and run than smaller ones, so think about how many people you’ll have in the car – and how often. If you’ll only take passengers occasionally, a city car like the Fiat 500 or a supermini like the Ford Fiesta could be just right, whereas a
GIVING a used car a thorough check can seem daunting, but many faults are easy to spot. We take you through the must-do checks when inspecting a used car. Exterior checks
Check the bodywork for a consistent paint finish – the paint should be the same shade all over the car; if not, it’s probably had some damage and a respray
Make sure the gaps between the panels are the same width – if not, the car could have been crashed and repaired
Check the doors and the boot open and close smoothly, and examine the rubber seals for paint – it could point to a re-spray
Press down carefully on the car at each corner and release; the car should return smoothly to its normal height – if it bounces before settling the suspension could need work
Bubbling paintwork indicates rust and is most common around the wheel arches, bumpers and window frames – check everywhere, particularly areas regularly in contact with water
Check the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for signs of tampering. The VIN is recorded on a metal strip at the base of the windscreen, under the bonnet or beneath the carpet on the driver’s side.
Check the tyres and the spare wheel with a tread depth gauge, which are available from car accessory shops. The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm across the width of the tyre, but more is better.
Make sure the tyres have even wear – more wear on one side of If you are buying a car for short journeys, it’s probably best to choose a model with a small the tyre indicates the suspension or tracking alignment needs adjusting – it could also point to crash damage.
If the car is a convertible, make sure the roof moves up and down smoothly and locks fully into place, Think carefully how much luggage you need to carry in your car. A city car’s boot usually has enough space for a couple of shopping bags, but little more, whereas a large estate check the material for tears, and make sure the rear window is free from cracks and discolouration. Under the bonnet
Check the car’s VIN is the same as recorded in the logbook.
Check for oil, water or other fluid car can take you and your passengers on holiday or accommodate a few pets.
If you have any particular things you need to carry — whether it’s kids, pets or your golf clubs – don’t be ashamed of taking them along to try in the car when you test drive it. Boot capacity figures are a good guide to how spacious a car is, but the shape of the boot can be just as important as its sheer size when it comes to loading luggage.
Last, but not least, if you think you’ll occasionally need to carry more luggage, it’s worth finding out the car’s capacity not just with its rear seats in place, but also with them folded down.
If you have something particular you need the car to do, make sure it is up to the job: if you tow a trailer, for example, check the official maximum towing weight; if you’re heading off road, make sure the car has adequate ground clearance and suitable tyres; and, if you have a small garage, check out the car’s measurements. — autotrader.co.uk leaks around the engine and other mechanical components, as well as on the ground underneath.
Remove the engine oil dipstick, wipe it with a cloth and replace it. Remove it again and check the oil is on or around the ‘max’ level; the oil should be golden and free from debris – if not, the oil will need changing and could indicate neglect.
Check the top of the engine (you may need to unclip the plastic engine cover first) and underneath the engine oil cap for a white, mayonnaise-like substance which could indicate a damaged engine head gasket and often-irreparable engine damage.
Check the fluid levels for the engine coolant (large, often round tank with a screw cap filled with pink fluid) and brake fluid (small bottle, often attached at the rear of the engine bay) are at the correct indicated level when the engine is cool.
Check the battery terminals and connectors on top of the battery are rust-free and in good condition. Inside the car
The mileage on the odometer inside the speedometer should be consistent with the advert and car’s documents.
Check wear on the seats and steering wheel are consistent with the car’s mileage – high mileage cars will often show wear on the side bolsters and the steering wheel may have a shiny appearance.
Check the VIN for signs of tampering. The VIN is recorded on a metal strip at the base of the windscreen, under the bonnet or beneath the carpet on the driver’s side.
Make sure everything works, including the air conditioning, all electric windows, sunroof, adjustable seats and even the fuel-filler and bonnet release.
Look for damage to the steering column and ignition – damage could indicate the car has been stolen at some point.
Check the seatbelts, the passenger side of the dashboard and the steering wheel cover – frayed seatbelts could indicate they’ve been activated in a crash and damage to the dashboard and steering wheel could mean the car’s airbags have been activated in a crash. Paperwork checks
Always visit private sellers at their home address and check it is the same as the one listed in the car’s logbook.
Check the car’s logbook, service history, previous MOT certificates and any old bills and receipts to establish if the car has been cared for, identify recurring faults and checking the car’s mileage is genuine.
Look at each MOT certificate and servicing stamp – the car’s total mileage should increase at a steady rate at each MOT and service interval.
Only accept original paperwork, and check for forgeries – the logbook should have a watermark, and you can call the garage the last MOT was carried out at and the previous owner to check the car’s past.— autotrader.co.uk
Thoroughly inspect a used car before purchase.