Used Car Inspection Guide

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Articles

  1. Vehicle Pre-purchase Inspection Checklist - Auto Care Plus
  2. A careful evaluation will help you steer clear of hidden problems
  3. 5 Steps: What to look for when performing a used car inspection on your own
  4. Buying a used car from a dealer

One reason for having a specific type of vehicle in mind early is that researching items on a minivan is going to be different from researching items on an SUV. Furthermore, all vehicles tend to have specific issues isolated by model and even isolated by different years of that model.

How to Inspect a Used Car for Purchase

Knowing exactly what type of issues might be present in your vehicle of choice gives you an excellent starting point in inspecting it for problems. Also, make sure you have performed a VIN check and ensured there are no open recalls.

Vehicle Pre-purchase Inspection Checklist - Auto Care Plus

Step 1: Body Condition When you look at a vehicle that you're considering, it's important to go over it carefully before driving it. Start with checking out the body condition. Walk around the vehicle and look for body surface defects such as scratches, dents or rust. Take note of whether there are any signs of mismatched paint as this could be a sign of a panel being replaced due to an accident.

Another clue is whether the body panels line up evenly. Next, open and close all the doors, including the hood and trunk. Does everything close and open easily? Doors that are difficult to close or open might also be a sign of an accident.

A careful evaluation will help you steer clear of hidden problems

Step 2: Tires Take a look at the tires of your prospective car. Examine the tread by using the penny test. Place a penny with Lincoln's head side down into the tire grooves. If the head is completely visible, then the tread is badly worn and the seller should replace the tires. Look at the tread again and check to see if it has worn evenly on both sides. Uneven wear could indicate a problem with alignment. It's also a good idea to ask if the tires have been rotated regularly. Step 3: Lights Next up, check all the lights on the vehicle.

Have the seller or a friend get into the car and turn on the headlights, running lights, high beams, fog lights if available and all the blinkers. Have them also depress the brake pedal to make sure those lights work. Physically examine all the light housings to look for damage such as cracks, foggy lenses or water. One of the signs of a flood-damaged vehicle is water in the light housings. Step 1: Smell The first thing to notice is the odor in the car.

The odor should be neutral or perhaps smell faintly of any air freshener item being used. If it smells like cigarette smoke or an animal, you may want to think twice as those smells are notoriously hard to remove. Another clue is whether the body panels line up evenly. Next, open and close all the doors, including the hood and trunk.

5 Steps: What to look for when performing a used car inspection on your own

Does everything close and open easily? Doors that are difficult to close or open might also be a sign of an accident. Step 2: Tires Take a look at the tires of your prospective car. Examine the tread by using the penny test. Place a penny with Lincoln's head side down into the tire grooves. If the head is completely visible, then the tread is badly worn and the seller should replace the tires. Look at the tread again and check to see if it has worn evenly on both sides.


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Uneven wear could indicate a problem with alignment. It's also a good idea to ask if the tires have been rotated regularly. Step 3: Lights Next up, check all the lights on the vehicle. Have the seller or a friend get into the car and turn on the headlights, running lights, high beams, fog lights if available and all the blinkers. Have them also depress the brake pedal to make sure those lights work. Physically examine all the light housings to look for damage such as cracks, foggy lenses or water.

go One of the signs of a flood-damaged vehicle is water in the light housings. Step 1: Smell The first thing to notice is the odor in the car. The odor should be neutral or perhaps smell faintly of any air freshener item being used. If it smells like cigarette smoke or an animal, you may want to think twice as those smells are notoriously hard to remove.

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Another red flag is a musty or moldy smell. This tends to be a sign of either a flood-damaged vehicle or one with some type of leak. If you do smell this odor, make sure to check the interior closely for signs of mold or water damage. Step 2: Seats Check the seats next. Look at the upholstery and see if it's worn, stained or torn.


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If you suspect mildew from the first step, examine the seats carefully for signs of water damage. A leaking roof or window seals could also cause this, not just flood damage. Check the controls on the seats, whether manual or power, to make sure they all work properly. Resistance or grinding noises also points to a problem. If the car has a manual mode, operated either by steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles or a manual operation on the gearstick, try it out to ensure it works correctly. Checking the bodywork is one of the easiest visual inspections you can do while looking at a car.

Car park dents and dings can be common on doors, too, while a chipped front could suggest a lot of heavy motorway miles. Check for panel gaps, and the door seals for potential leaks, as well. You should check as much of the car as you can, outside, underneath and, where possible, inside. Check for rust on all metal body panels. Untreated stone chips and scratches can trigger rust. You should also look for evidence of crash damage, and more importantly, evidence of poor repairs.

Take a look at the gaps between each panel. The thickness of the gap should be uniform all around the car. Pay special attention to the front and rear of the car, as this is where low-speed shunts often occur. Lift up the boot carpet. The panels below should be straight and ripple-free. Bent panels under the bonnet can indicate a previous front-end crash.

This further external check is important to ensure any used buy already has a decent set of tyres. Check all four wheels , plus the spare wheel if it has one. Look for signs of damage to each wheel. Check all of the tyres too. The tread should be at least 1.

Buying a used car from a dealer

Uneven tyre wear - where one side of the tyre is more worn than the other - can indicate poor wheel or suspension alignment. That could be caused by a crash, or simply hitting a pothole at speed, but will need fixing. Tyres that are worn excessively around the middle of the tyre, or around both edges point to consistent under- or over-inflation and will need replacing. Check for rips or tears in the upholstery, holes drilled in the dashboard and a sagging rooflining. Budget for repairs if you spot anything.