How to Check a Used Car is Worthwhile Before You Buy

Used Infiniti Q50

If you want to buy a used car, you need to be on your guard. Most secondhand cars are for sale because their owners are replacing them for vehicles in better condition. As such, the vehicles you view may have something wrong with them. That’s not to say you can’t find a decent pre-loved car, just that you need to check it over well before parting with your money to avoid disappointment. The tips that follow explain how.

Look under the hood

Although you want to look at the outside of the car, the best place to begin is on the inside where serious trouble can lurk. Can you see lots of grime under the hood? A little oil and dirt don’t necessarily mean the car is bad but does suggest it might not have been cared for well. As a worst-case scenario, greasy residue and damp could indicate an engine, transmission, or coolant leakage.

Even if you don’t know a great deal about cars, you can still check nothing is amiss. For instance, is anything broken or out of place? Check hoses and belts to ensure they aren’t cracked, and make sure the battery terminals aren’t corroded and no battery acid leakage is visible. If you have a digital multimeter, check the battery is roughly 12.45 volts or above which shows it’s properly charged.

Additionally, is the air filter clean rather than full of debris? Plus, what color is the oil when you look at it on the dipstick? It should be regular oil color rather than black or milky.

Other checks

Make sure the lights work, including the left and right signal lights, brake lights, and headlights. Also, check the horn, wiper blades, and washers function correctly. Examine the wheels for signs of wear, and look at the car fluids to verify they are full too, which means they haven’t leaked.


As a rule of thumb, a vehicle’s hoses and belts often need to be replaced after roughly 80,000 miles or so. As such, consider this when working out the cost-effectiveness of a car with high mileage.

When viewing the odometer, see that the numbers aren’t out of line. If they are, they may have been altered. Also, consider whether the car’s mileage matches its condition. For instance, if the interior looks worn, you can expect the mileage to be reasonably high. A low mileage under these circumstances might suggest the odometer’s been changed.

Car body

Does the car show signs of rust like bubbling under the paintwork? Surface blisters are not severe, but corrosion that travels further within the panels, bumpers, doors, and around wheel arches is bad news.

Look for ripples and discoloration in paintwork as you walk around the car that might indicate damaged areas that have been fixed. Also, examine the sunroof surround inside the vehicle, under carpets, and the window seals to check for leaks.

Go for a test drive

Are you insured to drive the car? Good, then aim to travel along a route that lets you encounter various conditions like busy roads and quiet lanes. Plus remember to test reverse during the drive.

Listen for any odd noises like rattles and bangs when you turn on the ignition, and glance at the warning light and temperature gauge during the journey to make sure the car’s not overheating. Additionally, does the steering feel smooth and do the brakes work well?

When considering making an offer

Ask to see the car registration documents and check everything’s in order. For instance, the mileage you’ve noted ought to correspond with data on service receipts. If you’re content with the condition of the car, like driving it, and are happy that the paperwork is correct, make an offer that’s in line with the going rate for the vehicle in question.

When viewing a used car, ensure it is better than the vehicle you already own. Is it in need of repairs? Consider whether it can be fixed, and if so, how much it will cost you. Is it worth the money you need to spend? Take into account the tips mentioned, and you’ll be able to answer the question and make a wise decision.


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Posted by Philly Auto on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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