You don’t have to be a mechanical engineer with a 100-piece socket set in order to check a used car. Without breaking into a sweat or getting dirt under our nails, we can tell if a used car is any good - or not. Here is your simple guide to buying a car and staying clean doing it!
Chipped, scraped or caked in brake dust won't extend a car's life. These are signs of an owner who does not care how they drive. After market alloys & ultra low profiles are also very boy racer and should be avoided.
They tell you an awful lot. Ideally, you want the same tread and make on opposite sides. So an obscure tyre make you’ve never heard of is a bad sign. Also, different tread depths suggest alignment/suspension issues. We've written about tyres here
Find out where they are and make sure they match and have not been tampered with. If you can't find out where to look online, check with the manufacturer's customer service department and they will tell you where to find it.
4) The Electrics
Have some fun. Press buttons, prod everything to make sure that the lights, wipers and all the extras are working as they should be.
Panel gaps, are they even? Perhaps there are bits of dirt in the paint, the paint has faded, there is paint on tyres or the window rubbers. That all suggests a poor repair after an accident.
6) The Boot
Open it and then clear it out and lift the carpet. Repairs after a rear-end crash are usually bodged so look at the joins and welds for rust or fresh paint.
Make sure all the locks work. If they snag on the bodywork then perhaps there’s been an accident.
Sellers, be they trade or private, must have lots of background material. You can check your cars history online and make sure it's roadworthy and not stolen. Old MOTs are worth studying for continuity as well as service books to see how well the vehicle has been looked after. If it's got an extended warranty then it's probably a good bet. To view current MOT history and advisories, register online using your registration number here.
It is sometimes difficult to lift fitted ones. Always look under the rubber ones and if they are coming away from the sills has there been a repair
10) The Levels
Pop the bonnet and check the oil. Ideally, it is fresh oil (golden, not black) and at the max level. If not and it’s a bit grubby, there maybe there have been problems or neglect. Check the water coolant level too.
11) The Owner
You don’t have to like them, but do you trust them? Be a real snob. Do they look as though they really own the car you want to buy? They might have invited you to their house to view, but is it really their house? Check the address on the V5 and invest in a vehicle check from a recognised provider.
All the above checks are great and will help when you have to make a decision on your next car and improve your peace of mind.
Still deciding on your next buy?
Before you buy, we help you answer
Looking for some inspiration?
An extended warranty is a great way to add peace of mind when you buy your car