Nobody wants to get stuck with a lemon when buying a used car. We’re not going to tell you to check the tires, since you should already know that. So let’s find out how to inspect a used car like the professionals do it.
Can’t inspect the car yourself? Get a qualified pre-purchase used car inspection on any vehicle with CARCHEX today.
It’s critical that you look at the car during the daytime, preferably on a sunny day. Many body imperfections will not show up in poor lighting conditions. Look carefully at the body lines for any blurring or unevenness which could mean that body work was done on the car.
Suspect Water Damage
Some cars have been damaged by flood or heavy rain. Dishonest vendors might even try to hide this fact. Be sure to look for:
- Water level marks on the doors, upholstery, or ceiling
- Wetness or moisture when you press on the floor carpeting
- Moldy odors in the cabin or trunk space
- Water in the spare tire compartment
Your eyes can deceive you. A faulty door handle or window control might look normal. Touch and test every control and button on the dash and doors. Don’t forget the passenger controls in the back. A minor defect might not break the deal, but it could be a bargaining point. Don’t forget to try the radio, AC, and test every seat belt buckle.
Get On Your Knees
Using a strong flashlight, look deep under the wheel wells and at the vehicle’s underside. Look for any dangling metal, dripping fluid, or unusual holes, especially in the exhaust/muffler system.
Ask To See The Title
Make sure you carefully read the vehicle title. A lot of information can be found there, for example, records about the number previous owners. You might also be surprised to find data there about major damage to the car like that it has been submerged, salvaged, or rebuilt. Even information about fire and hail damage can be included in the title.
Look In The Glove Box
Car owners tend to store service records in the glove box. These could be oil change logs, or even major repair receipts. These records often have odometer readings recorded on them. Compare these to the car’s current mileage, taking into account the date. Remember, the average person drives about 12,000 miles per year.
Test Drive Tips
Make sure the radio is off when you test drive. Drive with varying widow positions since some noises can be only heard with the windows up or down. Make sure you drive at various speeds.
Go to a parking lot and make tight turns with the steering wheel fully rotated and test both directions. Include backing up in this parking lot test. These maneuvers can sometimes detect noises connected to the suspension, constant velocity joints, and steering mechanism.
Get Another Opinion
No matter how good your inspection is, another set of eyes and hands might pick up something you missed. Professional car inspectors, like from CARCHEX, have a systematic 155-point inspection process. Combined with an experienced eye, most imperfections get noticed.
Published in CARCHEX Vehicle Inspection Resources by CARCHEX on June 2, 2015