When you’re buying a used car, you should already know what you’re getting into before hopping in the driver’s seat for your first test drive. While it’s often difficult to resist the temptation to take everything you see out for a spin, if you’re looking to buy a used car that’s as reliable, you’re going to want to run through an inspection before ever testing it out.
For those who aren’t car savvy, this can often be the most intimidating part. How do you know what the car salesman is telling you is accurate? How do you know what to look for? What’s the difference between a reliable used car and one that will break down a few weeks after purchase? To help you out, we’ve collected a list of the top four tips to keep in mind when you’re inspecting a used car.
Top 4 Tips for Inspection
Before we get too far into tips to use when you’re at the dealership, it’s just as important that we mention what you’ll need to bring with you to the dealership. When you’re doing a basic inspection yourself, it’s important that you wear some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, along with a flashlight and a simple refrigerator magnet.
Additionally, we want to mention that it’s just as important that you visit a dealership you can trust. While there seems to be a used car salesman on every block – and every page of the classifieds! – They’re not all the same. When you’re looking for a used car, be sure to check out traditional dealerships as well, as you may be able to get a good deal and drive away in one of these.
Once you’ve got all of your equipment ready, it’s time to get into the inspection:
Tip #1: Look for Rust
One of the first things you’ll want to be on the lookout for is rust. There’s no real way to cover it up, and once a car has started to rust, it should set off some red flags. Check every inch of the vehicle you can when looking for rust and while you’re at it, pay attention to the physical condition of the car. If one panel is newly painted and another is not, this may indicate a recent accident.
Tip #2: Take a Look at the Tires
You’ll be happy you didn’t wear nice clothes once you get down on the ground to take a look at the tires! There are a few things that the tires can tell you, and it may reveal how honest the salesman is. You’ll want to check the overall wear of the tires as well as the possibility of uneven wear. If a car has uneven wear on its tires, this is a signal that the car has been in an accident or that its alignment is off.
Tip #3: Check the Engine
While you may not be an expert, it’s still important to take a look at the engine compartment. Can you see any leaking fluids or signs that there may be a leak? Have the rubber bumpers been painted over? This may signal an accident and recent paint job. Check the oil dipstick. If it’s dirty, this is a signal that the car hasn’t been properly maintained over its life.
Tip #4: Inspect the Exterior
Before you hop in for your test drive, be sure to take a good look around the exterior. Try out all the doors and windows, make sure the back opens smoothly, and look to see if there has been any obvious repair work done. If you brought your magnet with you, try sticking it to every panel on the car’s exterior. To avoid scratching the car, you may want to place a piece of paper between the magnet and the car itself. Ideally, you want your magnet to stick to everything. If it doesn’t, this can mean the car was repaired with nonmetallic dent filler, that the panel itself is nonmetallic, or that the car is made of fiberglass.
Shopping for a used car doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Once you’ve found a dealership you feel as though you can trust, take your time doing your own inspection before a test drive. You’ll be surprised how many cars our four tips will be able to rule out, making your final purchase a much wiser investment.