Tips For Inspecting Previously Owned Cars

by : Kerry Plowright

If you're looking to purchase a previously owned car, you'll need to know what to look for when conducting your inspection. Here are some tips to help you sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to searching for your new car.

The body
The area of the car you will see first will obviously be the body, so this will be the most likely starting point for your inspection. If the car you are buying is older, then you will need to check closely for signs of rust. For newer cars this will be less of a problem so a cursory inspection will suffice. If it is an older one owner car you are considering, then check the lower parts of the doors, the sills and mudguards in particular. Also check the floor underneath the car and examine the boot and bonnet.

Whether it is a newer one owner car or an older one, you'll need to closely examine the whole of the body for signs of repairs. An area with a slightly different paint colour will usually be a tell tale sign of repair work, as will paint overspray. Also, check the paintwork for fading and cracking.

The interior
The interior of a car can often provide a valuable insight into how the car has been treated. Fastidious owners will always make sure that their car's interior is kept in excellent condition. Look for faded, cracked and torn trim. If the car has seat covers, check the upholstery underneath. Seat covers can provide an inexpensive way to hide damage. Also closely inspect the dashboard; cracking can indicate that the car has been left out in the sun.

When sitting in the driver's seat, check that all the controls are working properly. This includes the clutch and brake pedal, auto shifter, indicators, lights and everything else. Adjust the steering column, any power windows and the seats. Make sure you are satisfied that everything is working properly.

While you are sitting in the car, check that the seat belts are all working correctly. Pull each belt to make sure the inertia reel is working properly and click, clack front and back.

Under the bonnet
When you check under the bonnet, don't be instantly be impressed by a gleaming clean engine. It may have recently been steam cleaned to get rid of evidence of oil leaks. Speaking of oil leaks, check where the car is usually parked for signs of oil, this includes inside the garage if that is where the car is usually parked.

In the boot
You should also check the boot. Is it kept clean? Has there been any large or heavy items sliding about that could have caused damage to the bodywork? Also, check the condition of the spare tyre. Is it worn or cracked? If this is the case, ask if the owner whether they are willing to replace it with a new one. By the way, you'll also want to closely examine the condition of the tyres on the car. Are the walls cracked? Is there plenty of tread? Tyres can be very expensive to replace these days, especially if the car has large sports wheels.

Get a professional inspection
Of course once you are happy with your initial inspection, then it's time to go for a test drive. Check that the car starts easily and that it goes into gear without any problems, especially on an auto. Check for rattles and vibrations when driving the car. Obviously, check that the brakes and clutch are working properly.

If you have inspected your car, taken it for a test drive and you are happy with it, then you should still get a professional inspection. This could save you from discovering any nasty surprises further down the road.