What to Check When Buying a Used Car

Car Dealership

Going the used car route is great when you want a high-quality, affordable automobile. It’s also important, though, to get a vehicle that you can enjoy for many years and miles.

You can do that by looking into a particular car’s past along with doing a thorough visual inspection and taking the vehicle out for a test drive.

You may be wondering, though, what kinds of things you should be looking for. In this guide from Val-U-Line®, we’ll tell you what to check when buying a used car. Keep reading to learn more, and feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Learning a Vehicle’s History

Vehicle History Report

Before checking out a used car in person, it’s useful to look into the model’s history. A vehicle history report is good for doing just that since it can give you insight into whether a car is right for you.

A vehicle identification number will give you a detailed look at a car’s past, including:

  • Number of previous owners
  • If it’s ever been in an accident
  • Whether major service intervals have been performed

Once you read through several vehicle history reports, you can better narrow down your options and move on to the next phase, which is the car inspection.

Inspecting the Exterior

There are two aspects of a used vehicle inspection, the first being the exterior. When you see a car that you like at the dealership, you’ll want to do a walkaround to check for any imperfections.

You’ll want to keep an eye out for dents, scratches, or mismatched paint colors. See that the body panels line up evenly, and make sure that all the doors and trunk lid open and close easily.

There are more areas you can check on the car’s exterior, such as:

  • Glass: Make sure there aren’t any chips or cracks in the windshield or windows. If there are, they could worsen over time, resulting in a necessary repair or replacement at a service center.
  • Lights: Check that the light lenses are there and intact. Turn the car on and have a friend confirm that the headlights, taillights, and turning signals are all working correctly.
  • Tires: There are several things to look for with the tires. After making sure they’re all the same, you want to check that the tread is even and that there aren’t any cracks or bulges on the sides.

Checking the Interior

Car Shopping

Next up is an interior inspection. When you first open the door, see if you notice any strange odors. You’ll also want to look at the upholstery for any stains, rips, or tears.

Sit in every seat, even if you’ll primarily be driving the used car yourself. Make sure there’s enough headroom and legroom and that you can easily adjust the driver’s seat. You’ll also want to check the trunk space and make sure it’s adequate for your everyday needs.

When you get behind the wheel, see if all the instruments and controls are within reach and work properly. Turn the heater and A/C on, as well, to make sure those systems are working correctly.

Finally, you’ll want to turn on the radio and see what the AM and FM receptions are like. Try loading a CD into the player if there is one and plug your phone into a USB port if one is included. If you’re big into technology, you’ll want to make sure the vehicle has all the features you want/need.

Taking a Test Drive

When everything looks good, it’s then time to take the pre-owned vehicle out for a spin. You’ll want to drive the car at various speeds and on different types of roads to get an accurate depiction of how it performs.

If you can, take the vehicle on a crowded city street as well as an open road. Apply the brakes from different speeds to see how the car reacts. Make sure the brakes don’t feel sticky or loose.

See what the steering is like when changing lanes at higher speeds or going around corners. Make sure the steering doesn’t pull the car to one side, which could indicate issues with the suspension.

Additionally, you’ll want to drive on rougher roads to listen for any rattles or knocks. Take notice of any grinding or squeaking noises, too, which could be coming from the brakes.

Once you get back from the test drive, make notes of everything you’ve experienced, so you can determine if the vehicle is right for you.

Start Shopping for a Pre-Owned Vehicle Today

While there are certain things to look for when buying a used car, the process itself can be quite exciting. This is especially the case when you have lots of different models to browse through, which can be done at Val-U-Line®.

To get started on finding a pre-owned automobile, contact us today!