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10 Things to Look for When buying a second-hand vehicle

by Karen Willis (Karen Willis)

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Buying a used vehicle might be one of the most important expenses you ever make, therefore it's necessary that you get it right. While most people acquire used vehicles without issue, you ought to be aware that a used vehicle might have a lot of difficulties, ranging from a shady background to a defective engine. You may notice them as soon as you start driving it, or they may develop months later.

Unfortunately, we can't always depend on sellers to tell us all about a vehicle, so it's up to us to do some research on any used vehicle we're interested in purchasing. So, as a good starting point, here are some easy checks you can perform to assist you to buy the proper vehicle check at the appropriate cost.

1. Background:

It's wise to plan what you want before going out looking at vehicles. You must select a vehicle that satisfies all of your needs, matches your lifestyle, and is within your budget. Here are a few things to think about to help you create a shortlist:

The sort of fuel. This will have a significant impact on your selection. Diesel vehicles are normally more expensive to acquire than gasoline cars, so you'll need to drive at least 12,000 miles per year to offset this with the lower running expenses you'll experience with the diesel.

Consider carefully how you intend to use the vehicle. Cars with smaller engines are often less expensive to run and function better in towns and cities – ideal for a quick commute. A diesel, on the other hand, is better suited to longer excursions and highways, and if manufactured after 2009, it must be driven on a regular basis to burn off extra soot that develops in the DPF (diesel particulate filter).

Finally, you must consider other costs like tax and insurance, as well as how you intend to pay for the vehicle. If you can't pay cash, look at finance options like HP and PCP.

2. Seller

Do you prefer to purchase from a dealership or a private seller? Will you utilize a vehicle selling website? A private seller or an auction may be less expensive, but a certified dealership will typically give more utmost security. A dealer is considerably more likely to make you a trade-in on your previous model, as well as a guarantee and MOT. You should also be able to see a dealer's online ratings and reviews, which can inform you if you can trust them if you need assistance or repairs after you've purchased it.

3. History

Performing your car history check is as simple as can save you a lot of money and time. According to studies, one in every three vehicles has a secret past, so do your research. A simple online search can reveal whether your potential vehicle has been stolen or written off, whether there are any mileage irregularities, and whether there are any outstanding.

4. Are you adequately prepared?

You must ensure that you are fully prepared before viewing the vehicle. Here's a handy checklist: Check the trade-in value of your present vehicle if you're buying from a dealership. Examine common/known flaws for the make or model you want to buy so you know what to look out for - websites and forums may help you with this.

Make contact with the seller ahead of time and explain that you want to see the car cold. You should ensure that it starts easily from cold - if it has starting issues, these may be masked if the dealer heats it up before you inspect it. Make plans to meet during the day.

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5. Bodywork

Before you get in the vehicle, have a look around since warning signals are easy to see. Keep an eye out for: Look for visible flaws such as corrosion, dents, scuffs, or scratches. While these are typically simple fixes, they might be used as a bargaining tactic. Take a look at the car's lines. Position yourself on your haunches at each front corner of the car in turn.

Examine either side of the vehicle for any ripples or discrepancies that might suggest bodywork. Examine the panels for any noticeable gaps. Again, this might indicate that the vehicle was involved in an accident and had to be repaired. If you can, examine below as well. Look for obvious leakages and rust. 

6. Tyres

The tyres of a car may reveal a lot about it. Examine the tread depth, quality, and overall wear. Is the tyre wear similar across all four? If not, this might indicate that the vehicle has a more significant underlying issue.

Camber wear: If the inner, outside, or shoulder of the tyre displays considerably more lace-up than the remainder of the tyre, the suspension may be incorrect. Run your fingers down the tyre; if it feels smooth on one side and harsh on another, this might suggest toe misalignment or deeper problems with the steering mechanism or steering arms.

Cupped wear: Check for random smooth areas on the tread; this might indicate that the wheels are not correctly balanced, or that the shocks and struts have worn out. Check the brand of each tyre as well. Are they all alike? Is it a high-end brand? Budget tyres may indicate that the vendor has cut savings elsewhere as well.

7. Primary Functions and Controls

Test the features and controls before you start driving. Minor flaws may be straightforward to rectify, but they can also be used as a negotiating tactic. Check that everything works properly, including the electronic windows, headlights, and wipers. Close all the doors and the boot, and while you're at it, see whether the car has a spare wheel or a space saver.

5. Bodywork

Before you get in the vehicle, have a look around since warning signals are easy to see. Keep an eye out for: Look for visible flaws such as corrosion, dents, scuffs, or scratches. While these are typically simple fixes, they might be used as a bargaining tactic. Take a look at the car's lines. Position yourself on your haunches at each front corner of the car in turn.

Examine either side of the vehicle for any ripples or discrepancies that might suggest bodywork. Examine the panels for any noticeable gaps. Again, this might indicate that the vehicle was involved in an accident and had to be repaired. If you can, examine below as well. Look for obvious leakages and rust. 

6. Tyres

The tyres of a car may reveal a lot about it. Examine the tread depth, quality, and overall wear. Is the tyre wear similar across all four? If not, this might indicate that the vehicle has a more significant underlying issue.

Camber wear: If the inner, outside, or shoulder of the tyre displays considerably more lace-up than the remainder of the tyre, the suspension may be incorrect. Run your fingers down the tyre; if it feels smooth on one side and harsh on another, this might suggest toe misalignment or deeper problems with the steering mechanism or steering arms.

Cupped wear: Check for random smooth areas on the tread; this might indicate that the wheels are not correctly balanced, or that the shocks and struts have worn out. Check the brand of each tyre as well. Are they all alike? Is it a high-end brand? Budget tyres may indicate that the vendor has cut savings elsewhere as well.

7. Primary Functions and Controls

Test the features and controls before you start driving. Minor flaws may be straightforward to rectify, but they can also be used as a negotiating tactic. Check that everything works properly, including the electronic windows, headlights, and wipers. Close all the doors and the boot, and while you're at it, see whether the car has a spare wheel or a space saver.

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8. Engine

Before starting the engine, it's always a good idea to glance beneath the hood. Here are some quick inspections you may do on the forecourt: Ascertain that the engine is clean and well-maintained. Excessive muck or fluid might signal a leak. Inspect the battery. Examine the battery connections for any corrosion or debris.

Check the oil, brake fluid, and power steering fluid levels. Low fluid levels are a dead giveaway that a vehicle hasn't been cared for properly, or that it has a leak. Remember to glance inside the oil cap when you're checking your levels. A white mayonnaise-like mixture in the oil is typically an indication that coolant has been combined with it; this might indicate that the head gasket has blown.

You're now ready to fire her up. Listen to the engine for any strange clunks or rattles, as well as any whistling or screeching from the fan or drive belts. Examine the exhaust gases. When you start the vehicle, a modest stream of white smoke is OK. Anything more is a red sign, especially if the vehicle is leaking blue or black smoke, and might indicate a broken cylinder head, blown head gasket, or fractured engine block.

9. Handling

You're now ready for the actual test drive. Allow at least an hour for your test drive, and if feasible, take it on a range of routes - A roads, B roads, town centers, and dual arterial roads. It's critical to examine how the vehicle performs in various conditions. Here are some crucial considerations to keep in mind while driving:

Steering. When you move the wheel, check for any peculiar sounds; a slight whining sound is acceptable with steering systems, and anything more – any strange squeaks or rattles – may imply a problem. Check to ensure the vehicle doesn't swerve to the left or right once you're on a lengthy stretch of road. Turn at a low speed as well. Braking. To test response, use the brakes and make a couple of emergency stops.

Check for any strange sounds or sensations, and make that the car brakes in a straight path. Shift through the gears. Check for grinding or crunching; transitions should be smooth and efficient. Gear changes on an automatic should be seamless, rapid, and almost quiet. Get a sense of how the suspension feels. The ride should be smooth and pleasant, with the car absorbing any road shocks or potholes. Keep an eye out for any excessive shaking or wobbling. VIN Check will provide you with the vehicle's handling and other crucial information at an affordable price.

10. Documents

When you return to the dealership or the seller's home, it's time to make the final payments. This is your final opportunity to question the vendor, so be thorough: Demand to see all required documentation, including a properly stamped service book and an MOT certificate.

Inquire about the warranty if you are purchasing from a dealer. What exactly does it cover? How long does it last? Inquire about prior owners — how many there were and how they utilized the car. Inquire about any changes or fixes. Finally, confirm with the vendor that your potential vehicle is not an ex-taxi or ex-rental. The sale of these cars is increasing, and because of how they've been managed, they may be more prone to problems in the future. Both the car write off check and the logbook check might disclose vehicle document-related confusions and difficulties.

Never pay the advertised price — always bargain. Any minor details you discover when inspecting might be exploited to save money, so make sure you're completely satisfied with the value for money.

"That's it; you're finished. If your new vehicle fulfills all of your requirements, make a deal and enjoy your new ride!...."

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