We had a great trip down to Willenhall yesterday and spent a lot of time looking at used cars and trying out different models. My friend ended up buying the Vauxhall Meriva we went to look at, so he’s happy. We did, however, see a few bad deals in some of the smaller places and it made me think that we were lucky to know what we were looking at and spot any faults between us. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember all the things to check on a used car when you’re looking to buy one, so I thought I’d put together a little guide to spotting faults on used cars. I hope it’s useful.
- Bodywork. Rust is an obvious thing to look for on a car’s body and it’s usually quite obvious. Uneven paintwork can signify rust but, to be honest, most modern cars are pretty rust-proof. One of the key things to look at on the body is alignment of panels – check the spacing between them is even and look for any that are out of line. Open and close all the windows and doors and pay attention to how snugly they close – if they are out of line at all this could indicate the car has been in a crash and might be worth avoiding.
- Run the engine. Listen for strange noises, such as knocking or spluttering, and have a friend stand behind the car while you press the accelerator. Any smoke coming out of the exhaust is a bad sign.
- Look under the bonnet. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the key parts of a car’s engine before you head out, even if it is the basic things like the oil dipstick and oil cap. Look for any obvious signs of leaks or major work having been done.
- Interior. Check the ashtray to see if the previous owner was a smoker and for signs of dog/pet hair inside the car. Both of these things cause smells that will have penetrated the seats and are virtually impossible to get out. You may not notice the smell immediately but once the air freshener has worn off, and especially if the interior gets a little damp, in winter for example, you will definitely notice it.
- Little things. The small things count – you don’t want to buy a car and find out a week later that the windows don’t wind down properly, or the central locking is a bit dodgy. So check everything – from the radio to the wing mirror adjusters and the seat belts.
These tips are only intended as a beginner’s guide to looking at used cars so you should get a trained mechanic to have a proper look before you part with your cash.