The Complete Guide To Inspecting A Used Car

Written by a Guest Blogger

Finding the the right used car is no easy task. It takes time to research and hunt down the best price and the model you love. Then there is the worry of buying second hand. Is the car reliable? Is it in good condition? Whether you buy online, privately, or from a dealer, there are certain checks you should always do. Before you drive away perform these following tests to make sure the car is in good condition.


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Check mileage – Finding a used car with low mileage is a rare treat. Your goal is to find a car with below average annual mileage. This means the engine should still be in good condition and nothing has been worked too hard. However, take the time to make sure the mileage is genuine. Is the number roughly consistent with the age and condition of the vehicle? Take a close look at the gauge for signs of tampering. Finally, look through the service records and check that there has been a consistent mileage level.

Check paint and the finish – One of the big things to look for here is signs of rust. You’ll know rust when you see it. However, look out for the signs that are leading to rust too. The most common sign is little bubbles in the paint work. It means you’ll have some work to do in the not-too distant future. Make sure the colour and finish is consistent. If there is a subtle change it could be hiding a major repair and respray.

Under the bonnet – A good dealer, like Saxton 4×4, will always respect your need to look under the bonnet. Take your time and check everything thoroughly. First of all, use your nose. If you detect a burning smell, it’s a sign that something is wrong. Secondly, look out for signs of fluid leaks. Thirdly, check the fluids themselves. Use the dipstick to check the oil level and colour. It should be close to the max level and a light brown colour. Anything else suggests you’ll need to change it soon. It could also suggest neglected maintenance over the car’s life.

Test drive – Never buy a used car without getting behind the wheel and testing it. Drive it like you would your own car. Push the accelerator hard to see how it responds. Find a safe place to slam on the brakes and ensure that they are solid and reliable. Listen for the tell-tale signs of engine wear and other damage. Knocks and squeals are key things to avoid.

Inspect documents – Finally, ask to see all the documentation possible. The best dealers and sellers will have a full service history and MOT certificates. They will outline every oil change and every service and repair. A full service history is a good way to understand the car’s background. It will also give you peace of mind that the car was well looked after.

Follow all of the advice here and you’ll be well on your way to an excellent used car. A good dealer will be more than happy to accommodate all of these checks. So take your time and do them right. Best of luck!

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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