A Beginner’s Guide To Inspecting Used Cars

August 10th, 2021 by

Inspecting Used Cars - House of Cars Arizona

Inspecting Used Cars

Inspecting Used Cars. An essential part of buying a used car is to inspect it before the actual purchase is made. Why? Because it’s your best indicator of the car’s current condition. In the best-case scenario, the car is in a perfect state, and you can rest assured that you’re getting your value out of the purchase.

Worst case scenario, the car has several defects that affect the car’s overall performance. Depending on the severity, you could ask for a discount on the price or skip the purchase entirely. Now, let’s assume you’re currently in the middle of sealing a deal, and you’re only missing the inspection portion before coming to a close. By now, you are probably just thinking: “I’ll just take it for a drive, and figure out how it feels.”

Well, you’re not wrong. Part of any inspection is taking the car on a short drive. Nonetheless, there are numerous other steps you should ideally be taking beforehand as part of your inspection. In this article, we’ll go over some of them, so you can do them on your own when the time comes. During the inspection, wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and bring a flashlight (more on that later).

Check if There Is Any Rust on the Painting

Over the years, car manufacturers have tried their best to create rust-proof cars. However, that remains to be accomplished, as rust is still one of the greatest enemies for any car, especially to those who have been on the streets for a while.

Albeit this issue is mostly an aesthetic one, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves. Having a good-looking car is one of our highest priorities. Even if it doesn’t affect the overall performance, it’s a little piece of pride we have got no shame in having.

Destructive Rust Was Hidden Along the Bottom and How To Spot It Like a Pro

First, take your flashlight. Now, start looking at the car’s undercarriage. There, you’ll find the floor pans and the frame rails. What you’re looking for is rust, only this time you’ll be focusing on the different levels of accumulated rust among different sections of the undercarriage. Due to the nature of the undercarriage, a moderate amount of rust is completely normal, and no reason to worry.

However, finding any part in pristine conditions is not something you’d typically find. In this case, this area of the car has likely gone through significant repairs. Did your seller disclose said repairs earlier? Next, you want to check the wheels, as well as the muffler. What you want to look for is accumulated rust and signs of wear, respectively.

Let’s pretend your seller did not disclose any history of repairs beforehand. Furthermore, let’s assume that the wheels and the muffler were not in the best condition. Again, depending on the severity of what you find, you could either ask for a discount or skip on the deal entirely.

Check the Tires

When it comes to the tires, you want to look for the following things:

  • Overall wear.

Do the tires have enough tread on them? Or are they bald? If the answer is the latter, then you’re in heavy need of a replacement. How can anyone figure this out? Well, look for any ridges running across the surface of the tires. These are called tread-wear indicators, and every tire has up to six of them, running parallel to its circumference.

Once you find them, try what is called the penny test. Put a penny on top of the tire, with its side heading towards you. If most of it disappears into the groove, then your tires still have some life ahead of them. If not, then you’re looking at the complete opposite scenario.

The more you get to see the coin, the lesser the tread you have. Again, this is something you do not want. Now, repeat the process for every single tire.

  • Uneven wear.

Let’s assume you have gone through all the tires, yet, one side is more worn out than the other. Now, this isn’t something you’d typically find, as tires tend to wear down evenly. If that’s the case, then it is very likely that the car has previously been in an accident, and it has been out of alignment ever since.

Ask yourself once again, did my seller disclose this information earlier? On a similar note, check the car’s odometer. Do you feel that its mileage is on par with the tires’ current state? Ideally, the answer should be “yes.” But, if you were to find that the car has a low mileage in store and yet it has incredibly weary tires, that’s another thing you need to bring up to your seller.

Best case scenario. The previous owner had to exchange all the tires and only had used tires at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, you still need to figure out what led to this discrepancy.

Keep in mind, the same applies if you were to find that the car has high mileage but brand-new tires. There’s probably a proper explanation for this, but you still need to make sure your seller tells you every detail about your potential purchase.

In essence, you want to ensure that you’re being offered a good deal.

Do a Walk Around

As the name suggests, this step involves the simple act of strolling around the car. As simple as this might sound, this also comes as an essential part of the process. Overall, you want to look for more instances of rust, any dents, or even dings.

Furthermore, you want to ensure that the hood, the doors, and the trunk all open and close as intended. Likewise, check if all windows and door locks work like they’re supposed to. Check the trunk. Is it roomy enough for your needs? Is it in good condition?

As little as this might seem right now, even the slightest problem will eventually become your day-to-day problem if you were to fulfill your part of the deal. If you’re being asked to deal with these pet peeves regularly, you might as well be getting a lower price to compensate for it.

Take a Good Look at the Engine

After reading the title of this step, you are probably thinking: “this is better left to a mechanic.” Do not worry. You can still check some things on your own!

Now, open the hood and look for the following:

  • Overall, is it clean? Or does it show signs of leakage? Ideally, you want to check the engine before driving the car to compare the before and after. So take a mental picture, and see if something’s different after the drive.
  • Is there any sign of rust? Prioritize the shock and the points at the corners near the windshield, as they’re the parts most heavily affected by it.
  • With the engine off, look under the fan belts. Do they show signs of wear?
  • Remove the oil dipstick. Are the levels shown in it correct?
  • Still, talking about the oil dipstick, is the oil dark and dirty? If so, then it’s a clear sign that the car isn’t getting proper care.
  • Before doing this step, make sure the car has already been turned off for hours. Now, remove the radiator cap carefully, and look on the inside. Can you see a layer of the oily film? Is the coolant rust-colored? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is a sign of a costly head gasket problem.

Once these checks are said and done, now is the moment to give the car a short drive. If anything does not feel right when doing so, then it is very likely that any of your red flags are indeed affecting the vehicle’s performance.

After having gone through the entire process, now comes the moment for your final decision. Was it all at relatively acceptable levels? Is the price fair, or are you better off finding a better offer? The choice is all yours.

Find the Most Reliable Cars at House of Cars

Now, you are more prepared than ever when it comes to qualifying any used vehicle’s condition on your own. If you need to put some of those skills into practice in a dealership, please visit us at House of Cars Arizona in Scottsdale, AZ!

We will not only offer you the very best selection of second-hand vehicles, but our team of experts will also be glad to help you evaluate any of our potential offers. At House of Cars Arizona, we pride ourselves in helping you find the vehicle that speaks to you the most. Contact us today to learn more!

Posted in Tips, Used Car