Buying a used car is stressful. With so many burning questions – like is the car a dud? Am I being ripped off? When it comes to inspections – sometimes the awkwardness of meeting the seller can be enough to send someone running to a dealership. But when you’re eyeing off the perfect car – somethings gotta give. Here are 10 important things to check when buying a used car.
1. Learn about the car’s history
Top priority when considering what to check when buying a used car is the car’s history. This information will help you decide whether the vehicle has been treated right. Vehicles that have missed services, or been driven a certain way can drastically affect how the car performs later in its life. Here are a few questions to ask the seller:
- Always ask why they’re selling in the first place.
- Who has been driving the car and for what purpose what it used for example a daily commuter or road trip car?
- Is the car up to date on its services and can I see the service history? If you want to make double sure you can ask for copies of the receipts to make sure it’s all been paid for.
2. Check the bodywork
Walk around the car and check the exterior for dents, scratches, or faded paintwork. If there is any major damage this could be decisive in your decision to walk away. A car that has had even a relatively minor accident can experience lasting problems with wheel alignment or other structural issues. You might also want to use any defects as ammunition in a price negotiation.
3. Weigh up the milage
Knowing what to check when buying a used car is difficult when out on the spot, a great way to break the ice is to talk about the milage. Always be wary of cars that present with surprisingly low mileage figures. If it looks too good to be true, you might want to see if the mileage figures have been altered at any point. If the mileage is higher than expected or advertised this might also be a reason to continue the search elsewhere. Ultimately, you want to drive away confident, knowing you’ve got plenty of life left in the car.
4. Turn on the engine and open the bonnet
Do a routine engine check. At the end of the day, it’s whatever is under the bonnet that counts the most. Turn the car on and make sure everything runs smoothly. Take note of any odd sounds or quirks. Remember to check the oil, coolant, and power steering fluid. It’s a good idea to check for any possible leaks, both around the engine and under the car.
5. Test the electrics
Start by asking about the battery. Used cars are notorious for having a tired battery under the bonnet. While replacing a battery isn’t the most expensive thing you might end up doing, it certainly adds up if there are other issues you want to fix. Check the headlights and indicators, and brake lights, followed by a routine check of interior electrics such as overhead lamps, windows, and air-conditioning. The last thing you’ll want to realise on the freeway home is that you’re going to suffocate in the heat. Don’t just ask – actually turn the car on – and pump the aircon to get an idea of its capability.
6. Is it registered – until when?
It’s only a problem if the car is actually not registered – so any months remaining on the registration is a bonus and may sweeten the deal if you’ve got a few months’ rollover. If the car is unregistered – cue alarm bells. Used cars need to go over the pits to ensure roadworthiness – sometimes the reason someone for selling is that they know the car is not going to make it. Test drives are also off the table unless you apply for a permit to move the car. Tread carefully with this one. If you’re unsure about buying a car privately, reach out to Used Cars Perth, and find out how you can get rid of paperwork by choosing a qualified dealership.
7. Has it got enough space?
Check the boot, picture your weekly shop, holiday equipment, pram, or bike in the back. Space is one of the key deciders – without enough room for your daily needs, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Never compromise on the basics. Don’t be embarrassed to whip out a measuring tape!
8. Does it fit your safety requirements?
Often forgotten in the usual buying a used car checklist is an old fashioned safety check. Sitting in the driver’s seat, do a blind spot check, and adjust mirrors to the optimum position and make an assessment on safety. If the car is a newer model inquire about what safety technology is available and be sure to test that it works when you take it for a spin.
9. Does it feel good behind the wheel?
Take the car for a drive. Sometimes knowing what to check when buying a used car comes down to a simple road test. Try to choose a route that offers a variety of roads and speed limits. If you get the chance, give it the beans and see how it handles under pressure. Take note of any lagging or sluggishness in the acceleration and be sure to check the brakes. It’s important that the overall ride feels good. Ask yourself, does the ride height feel right? When I throw the car into a corner do I feel safe? If you want the car and you’re an expert negotiator, wipe that smile off your face when you step out of the car.
Learn more about what to expect when negotiating with this used car buying guide.
10. Will it be easy to live with?
Answering this question comes down to a combination of factors like fuel economy, overall size, and your general driving needs and habits. If you’re a fan of long road trips and expect to add sersios miles, you’ll want to weigh up fuel efficiency, space, and general engine health. Check any car-specific features like 4 Wheel Drive function or sports mode and match up your driving habits to the features and capabilities of the car.