Do You Know How to Inspect a Used Car?

By: Chuck Parrish

It seems you have looked at every used car in your area and have finally decided on that one special gem to purchase. Before you plunk down all your change, you need to make sure this little jewel is worth what you are willing to pay and the used car salesman is willing to accept.

Here are a few tips that you can use for an "on the spot" inspection of the vehicle:

1)Body damage - this is a little tricky to determine but you can do some checking. Open the hood and trunk and inspect the paint edges feeling to see if it is rough. Look for overspray on the inside of these areas and also make sure the paint inside the hood matches the outside of the vehicle. Stand in front of the car at each corner and look down the body line of the vehicle checking for waves. Open the doors and look for overspray or a paint line on the door jams.

2)Engine and transmission - pop the hood and look carefully at the engine and do not be fooled by a clean compartment. Look at the belts and hoses, the air filter; check the oil and transmission fluid by sniffing it. If you smell smoke, that could indicate problems. Start up the car and listen to the engine for knocks and metal noises; put the transmission in gear - does it clunk or go smoothly. Look under the vehicle for leaks - if you find water don't worry that's just the a/c.

3)Electrical - start the car and turn on all the electrical features making sure everything works properly. Windows should roll up smoothly and quick, door locks should function, the a/c should blow cold, the heat should heat and always check the windshield defroster - if it smokes or has a funny smell, the heater core could be bad. Make sure the wipers work properly as well as the horn, turn signals, hazards and headlights.

4)Test Drive - make sure to check all functions of the moving vehicle including the brakes, steering, suspension, engine response and transmission. Before you take off look at the tires and inspect the wear and tread depth. If the tires have scalloping or damage you should get the dealer to replace them prior to purchase.

5)After the Test Drive - turn off the car, pop the hood checking for temperature issues and smell. Also get back down again and look under the vehicle checking for any residue on any surfaces.

6)Before you buy - take the car to a trusted mechanic and have them go over it as well. Ask for receipts and service or repair invoices as well.

If your potential car purchase lives through all that scrutiny then buy it. If it fails a few tests, you will need to determine the potential costs you might incur and if you really want to buy a vehicle with possible problems.

The bottom line is, it is next to impossible to determine if a vehicle is good or bad, but you can decide whether or not it is worth the risk of buying.

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