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Inspecting a Used Car – The Checklist

Inspecting a used car

Following on from our post on Top Tips for Buying a Used Car, we wanted to provide more detail and a detailed checklist – the best way to inspect a used car before parting with any money.  When looking to buy a second hand car, it’s vital that you take the time to inspect it carefully both before and after a test drive in order to determine its condition and to check the information in the ad. A used car’s current condition and the way it’s been looked after are as important as the style, features and fit from when it was new.

Even after running through the checklist below and taking it for a test drive, you still might not know for sure if the vehicle is mechanically sound but if you’re really interested in a car, depending on its value, it may be beneficial to pay for a full inspection by a qualified inspector or mechanic.

Note: It’s important that you bring a torch and a small flat magnet (to check body panels for filler) and it goes without saying, only view used cars in the daylight. As a thorough inspection will involve looking under the car, it’s also recommended that you wear old clothes.

The bodywork

You can check body panels with your small magnet around areas such as lower door panels to see if filler has been used anywhere. Make sure not to scratch the paintwork though! Using a plastic covered magnet or cloth can have avoid any embarrassing damage.

  • Are there dents or scratches on the bodywork?
  • Is there rust on the bottom of any body panels?
  • Does the vehicle have different tones of paint or overspray under wheel arches?
  • Is the paint bubbling anywhere?
  • Are there uneven gaps between the panels?
  • Are the bumpers or doors scratched or dented?
  • Has work been done on the sill or wheel arches?
  • Are there chips or cracks in the windows?
  • Do the doors open and close easily with no sticking?
  • Does the boot open and close easily?
  • Does the bonnet open easily with no grinding?
  • Do the boot and bonnet lids open and stay open when required?
  • Do all keys open / lock the vehicle?

Looking underneath

Unfortunately this part requires laying down and having a good look underneath, making use of your torch to look in gear areas under wheel arches and by suspension turrets.

  • Is there any obvious or damage to the cars floor pan (underside)?
  • Is there rust on or around the exhaust?
  • Does the exhaust move or bounce around excessively?
  • Are the tyres heavily worn?
  • Does the level of wear match the car’s mileage?
  • Is there wear on the tires towards the inner or outer edges?
  • Does the suspension rise easily and smoothly?
  • Are there leaks under the vehicle?
  • Is there a spare wheel and is it in good condition?

The Engine

Inspecting a used cars engine bayPop the bonnet and take a good look around the engine bar.  Having a pair of disposable gloves and a cloth or rag will be useful for having a good look as well as checking and re-dipping the dip stick.

  • Is there oil in the engine?
  • Is the oil on the dipstick golden with no debris?
  • Is there any signs of rust or paint flaking in the engine bay?
  • Is the engine dry with no obvious leaks?
  • Is there fluid build-up around the piping?
  • Does the metal VIN plate look tampered with?
  • Does the VIN plate number correspond with the number stamped inside the car under the carpet and also at the base of the windscreen?
  • Does the VIN correspond on the vehicle and the logbook?

The Interior

Before you go for a test drive, make sure to have a thorough look around the interior.  It’s your chance to make sure that everything advertised is there and works as it should – and if not a point to negotiate on the price or get fixed.

  • Does the mileage correspond with the vehicle service book?
  • Does the vehicle condition correspond with the vehicles mileage?
  • Is there damage to the steering wheel column or ignition?
  • Do the seatbelts engage and disengage properly?
  • Are the seatbelts frayed?
  • Does the steering wheel turn smoothly and quietly?
  • Does the clutch move easily without any noises?
  • Do the gears engage easily without any grinding?
  • Does the stereo system work?
  • Do the heaters / air conditioning work?
  • Do all the additional features work? (bluetooth, stearing wheel controls, fog lights etc)
  • Do all windows lower and raise properly?

It’s also highly recommended that you get an HPI check to find out about the vehicles history, any outstanding finance or whether the car has ever been written off or stolen.
Once you’ve run through the above checklist and have all of the information to hand, you can make a decision as to whether a further inspection is needed, or if you’re confident enough you can negotiate on the sale price with the seller. When buying from a dealer or garage, it’s often worth checking the details of any warranty provided to ensure this covers you for any major issues in the future. If you’re looking for used cars in Birmingham, check out the car supermarket Motorpoint.

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