The average price for used cars has largely gone down in the latter half of 2023, so now is a good time to buy if you’re in the market for a used car. Finding a reliable used car isn’t a matter of luck, but a matter of good research and investigation. Understanding how to spot problem areas and figuring out how reliable a used vehicle is makes all the difference.
How To Inspect the Exterior
The first thing you see when you look at a used car is the exterior. Inspect the body condition by carefully checking each panel for dents, scratches, and rust. You’re mainly looking for a uniform paint color and finish. Blistered paint indicates rust beneath it.
The tires can also tell you a lot about a car. Used cars with low mileage should generally still have the original tires. You should be leery of a low-mileage car with new tires. The tire tread should be even across the width of the tire. Aggressive driving tends to cause heavy wear on the outside shoulder of the front tires.
If you notice uneven tread along the circumference of the tire, it might be a problem with the brakes, suspension, or steering. It’s also important to check the sidewalls for any scuffing or cracks.
How To Inspect the Interior
The interior of your next car is important too, and not just because it’s where you’ll spend most of your time as the owner. When you first open the door, take note of what you smell. If there’s a musty or mildewy smell, it could indicate a leak or some type of water damage. Check the carpet and beneath the floor mats for signs of water.
Check all the seats, even the rear seats. If the car has low mileage, the seats shouldn’t show any strong signs of wear and they should still provide plenty of support. Make sure all the seat adjusters work and ensure that you can find a comfortable position in the driver’s seat.
Look at the roof and trunk of the vehicle as well. You shouldn’t find any signs of water damage or leakage in either one. Sniff the trunk for musty odors as well. Turn the car on and check that all the lights and the sound system work as they should.
Check Under the Hood
It’s always a good idea to get used cars checked out by a qualified mechanic, but you can still do some of the initial investigation yourself. Start with a cool engine and look at the general condition. It’s fairly normal to see some dirt and dust, but excessive dirt and oil could be a problem. Feel all the hoses to ensure that they’re firm and flexible, not brittle or cracked.
Check all the fluids and pay particular attention to the condition of the engine oil. If the oil is exceptionally light in color, that indicates the oil was just changed. This might not be a problem, but it could be a sign that the owner is trying to hide something. In general, the oil should be dark brown without any signs of grit or foam. Water on the dipstick could indicate a blown head gasket or cracked block.
Look at the radiator and battery. The coolant should be green or orange in color, not rusty or cloudy. If you see green stains on the outside, it’s a good indication of leaks. The battery might have a charge indicator, and green generally means it’s in good shape. Take note of any obvious corrosion.
Before you close the deal on any used car, it’s important to have a qualified mechanic thoroughly look it over. An honest dealer should have no problem letting you do this.
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