Make Sure You Aren't Buying 'Someone Else's Problems' With These Used Car Shopping Tips

Posted on: 31 July 2015

When you are buying a used car, you take the risk of buying 'someone else's problems'. However, if you inspect your car thoroughly before you buy it, you can figure out what repairs, if any, are going to be needed immediately, and armed with that info, you can make an informed decision. Here's what to do:

1. Check under the car for leaks

Don't be shy about crawling under the car to check for leaks. Bring a blanket if you don't want to lie on the pavement or have a mobile car inspector come with a dolly so he or she can get under the car.

Ideally, you want everything to look dry from the bottom. If you see leaks from the engine, transmission or cooling system, those elements may need repairs.

2. Inspect the body work

Unfortunately, cars cannot talk, but there are still ways to tell whether or not a car has been in an accident. Look at the body work. If you see mismatched paint or gaps between panels, that can be a sign that body work has been done and thus that the car has been in an accident.

That doesn't necessarily mean that buying the car is a bad idea. However, you should have a professional look at it. A mobile car service person can come to where you are looking at the used car, and he or she can analyze the quality of the repairs and let you know if you should anticipate any trouble or repair work due to past accidents.

3. Check the brake pads

To see how much life the brake pads have left, look at them. You can typically see them through the wheels of the vehicle, and many cars feature metres or slots that work as wear indicators. If the slot is full, the pads are great, but if nearly empty, they need to be replaced.

Getting new brakes isn't that expensive, but use the point to negotiate a cheaper price on the used car.

4. Look for residue on the tailpipe

Take your fingers and feel the tailpipe at the back of the car. Any material on it should feel dry and appear to be a dark gray colour. If it feels greasy and looks black, it means the engine is burning the oil. That could indicate that the car needs new piston rings or better valve seals. In some cases, it may mean the converter is wearing out.

5. Do a load test on the battery

While many of the tests described above, you can do on your own, others are more easily performed by an experienced mechanic. If you opt to hire a mobile car service person from a business like Precision Mobile Mechanics to look at your used car, have him or her check the battery for you. These professionals typically have load testers that make it easy to see when you will next need to replace the battery.