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Buying a Used Car? Find Out What to Check!

25 November 2019 AutoMarket, Tips & Advice

Having realised you can buy a new vehicle without having to spend a substantial amount of money, you’ve finally decided to purchase a used car instead of a new one. However, how can you ensure the validity of the vehicle’s condition? That it was as good as it was advertised online? While buying a used car can be a practical option, buyers still need to make smart choices.

Below we listed the things you need to check in a used car before buying it.

Review the Vehicle History Report

Reviewing the vehicle history can help you see if the vehicle has been in an accident, if there are any liens or recalls on the model, title problems, ownership history, and service points. Usually a dealer will provide this report but if it isn’t, do your own research by running the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) online.


Inspect the Exterior and Interior for Damages

Walk around the car and keep an eye for rust spots, paint chips, scratches, and dents. Small and localised patches are not a deal breaker; however, larger areas of damage may cause a concern. Check to see if the body panels line up evenly, if it’s uneven, it indicates that the vehicle was in an accident and was not repaired well. Go all out and check the doors, hood and trunk by opening and closing them to see how easily they move. Inside the hood, trunk and doors, look out for paint overspray and ensure the colours of the parts matches the vehicle. If it’s mismatched, it’s likely repaired and repainted.


Check the Frame for Issues

Check if the car is sitting level on the ground; if there’s anything hanging from the undercarriage; check the bumpers and look inside the trunk and hood for new bolts or warping – it indicates a recent repair or accident. 


Inspect the Engine of the Used Car

The engine is the heart of the vehicle and must always be checked. After inspecting the hood on how easily it moves, visually inspect the engine while the car is turned off: check for fluid leaks, cracked hoses and belts, and corrosion. Check the oil and transmission dipsticks for any discolouration – transmission fluid should be pink or red; oil should be light brown.


Check for Leaks

Keep in mind that any car leak fluid is generally a red flag. Check under the car for any leaks. Here’s some guide:

 • Black fluid – oi leak

 • Green, Yellow, or Pink fluid – leak in anti-freeze

 • Reddish fluid – transmission or power-steering fluid


Check Tire Condition

All four should match and its tread should be worn evenly. If tire treads are uneven or extra wear on the other tire, it indicates poor alignment which can be from a series of issues like steering, suspension and/or frame issues. Keep in mind that a poorly aligned car will pull either to the right or to the left when driving.


Consider the Mileage

A smart tip to calculate if the car you’re looking at has a high or low mileage, divide the number on the odometer by the vehicle’s age. On an average, a car will rack up approximately 20,000km annually. Obviously, a high mileage car has more wear and tear on its mechanical components.

NOTE: Low mileage doesn’t always mean the car is in a great shape and a high mileage isn’t necessary a bad thing.

The way the car has been used and maintained by the previous owner is more important than its mileage on the odometer says.


Interior Technology

Play and press some buttons and make sure the stereo and other functions are working properly. Road trips won’t be the same if your radio speakers are broken. While blasting the car’s stereo, check for its air conditioning and heating as well.


Inspect the Upholstery

Check for stains, tears and cracks on all the leather seats – repairing upholstery can be pricey.


Go for a Test Drive

Feel condition of the car by driving it. Inspect if all the dashboard warning lights go on; listen for tapping and clicking sound when you start the engine, it indicates a problem. Ask your dealer to test drive the car on different types of roads and on varying speeds checking if the transmission shifts smoothly. Check the brakes if it’s working properly.


Have a Mechanic do an Inspection

If you think it passed your tests, it’s always better be safe than sorry and have a trusted mechanic inspect the car. They are pros and can detect underlying issues that might be your future problem. It may be an extra cost but it’ll save you hefty future costs.

You’re all set up on purchasing your next new used car that meets your needs and fits your budget. Browse thousands of affordable but quality cars at