Walking into a used car lot can be an exhausting experience. You often don’t know much about how the vehicles were taken care of by the previous owner, and you do not know what work needs to be done. Here is a simple checklist of things to look for when you are buying a used car.
What You Should Bring
Bring all the things that you will need to inspect the car
Gloves: The inside of most used car engine compartments are often not immaculate
Shop Towels: Used for checking oil and transmission fluid
Flashlight: Flashlights can often uncover dark places where oil has leaked or tears in upholstery that might otherwise go unnoticed
Penny: For checking tire tread depth
Notebook: Jot down the year, make, and model of the cars you are looking at, as well as the VIN, to check the vehicle history of cars you are most interested in. Take notes about each vehicle so that you can weigh the pros and cons of each prospect.
Check the Exterior
- Inspect the outside of the car in good lighting. Walk around the car and note any damage. If one panel of the vehicle is much less faded than the rest, that may be a sign that the car was in an accident
- Check the tires for tread depth and even treadwear
- Open everything. Be sure that all doors, latches, and locks operate fluidly, including the hood and trunk
- Turn on all the lights. Look for clouded lenses
- Operate the windshield wipers and the washer fluid sprayer
- Suspension check: Does the car sit evenly? Do the struts squeak when you push down on a corner?
In the Engine Compartment
Cleanliness: Are there visible oil and grease stains from repairs? Leaking liquids?
Battery corrosion: Look for white crusty buildup on the terminals. This may not signal an actual problem but that the battery is likely older and may need to be replaced soon
Fluid Check: Use the dipstick to check oil, power steering, and transmission fluid. Look for proper levels and no burnt smells. Brake and radiator fluids may often be observed through the reservoirs
Belts: Look for worn belts and hoses
Inside the car
- Look for noticeable wear such as cracked dashboard, seats, and upholstery
- Lift floor mats to verify no hidden damage
- Verify that all gauges and lights are operational, including dash lights, interior lights and accessory lights such as the air conditioner and ashtray
- Adjust all seats
- Pull each seat belt to ensure that they run free and clear
- Turn on the heater and air conditioner
- Roll every window up and down from both the driver’s door, as well as each door
- Ensure that electronic door lock switches work
- Test child safety locks if applicable
- Turn on the radio
- Cycle the transmission through the gears
- Operate the emergency brake
Head for the Trunk
- Visually inspect for damage
- Verify that the jack is in place, and not damaged
- Check the spare tire. Inspect for proper pressure and ensure that there is little to no wear
Test Drive the Car
While a quick spin around the block may not tell you every problem, note what problems do arise
- Start the car
- Listen for odd noises when starting
- Keep the hood open, so you can better hear obvious problems
- Look under the vehicle for leaks
- Be aware of any unusual smells
- Listen for a high idle
- Is the steering loose?
- Does the car pull to one side?
- Are there any unusual sounds when cornering?
- Does the car accelerate and brake smoothly?
This may seem like a rigorous test, and surely it is time-consuming. Kicking the tires on cars can easily drain away a day. When you feel that you are done for the day, there is nothing wrong with coming back the next day with a fresh face. It takes less time to eliminate cars from your buy list by testing them before you buy than it takes to sit in repair shops waiting for your new car to get fixed. Take your time; know what to check when buying a used car. Find the right car at a good price and buy with confidence.
At Advantage Car & Credit, you can be confident you’ll get a great vehicle, at a great price. Check out our extensive online inventory, or come on down for a test drive today!