Finding the right used car can be tricky business , and since nobody likes buying a lemon of a car . Here is a “what to look for list”
What to look for:
The AA has put together a list of pointers to help you choose a used car and avoid duds
- A dirty engine and “frosting” around the battery terminals could mean the engine has not been carefully maintained.
- Rumbling or knocking noises from the top or bottom of the engine when you start the car could indicate expensive problems.
- Thick blue smoke from the exhaust when you start up and rev the engine with the gear in neutral or park is a bad sign – stay away from this one.
- Check the water in the radiator, this should be clean and oil free.
- A low level of oil or sludgy, black oil on the dipstick suggests infrequent oil changes and a lack of TLC (Tender Loving Care).
- Let the car stand for a while and check for puddles of oil or liquid.
You can’t expect a used car to have a perfect body, in fact small chips in the paint or on the windscreen may even prove that the car has not been in a major accident and needed body parts replaced, but there are things you should look out for.
- Check for mismatched paint on adjacent body panels, this could show that it has been in an accident.
- Peeling paint could later lead to rust.
- Check that the gaps between the body panels are equal in width and that any edges are flush with each other.
- Look out for obvious over-spraying – take a peek at the wires in the engine compartment or behind the door or window rubbers. This could mean that the car has accident damage.
- Uneven wearing of the tyres or “feathering” is a sign that the wheels are off-balance, the suspension is not aligned or the shock absorbers are worn.
- Unscrupulous sellers could turn the speedometer back to make the kilometres appear less. Check that the speedometer digits aren’t crooked or scratched or that screws haven’t been tampered with.
- Wear and tear on the carpeting and rubber of the brake, clutch and accelerator pedals should be consistent with the age of the car.
Taking the car for a test drive:
- Make sure that the engine power is adequate for its size.
- Keep an eye out for over-heating.
- Check that the car follows a straight line and brakes in a straight line.
- When you go around a corner the car should not pitch like a yacht and the steering wheel should straighten itself.
- The gears should change smoothly and easily.
Eight tips to save you trouble:
- Always ask to see all the car’s paperwork and check the service record.
- Pay for a mechanical check to be carried out. The AA can do this.
- Beware of dealers advertising as private sellers. Check that the address on the registration document is the same as the address where you saw the car. If you answer a private advert and say that you are ringing about the car and the person says “which car?” you may be talking to a dealer.
- Always try to negotiate a lower price.
- If you are not feeling totally sure and happy walk away. There are plenty of second-hand cars around.
- Shop around for the best financial deal.
- Set up a budget and stick to it.
A roadworthy certificate (RWC) is not a guarantee that the car is problem-free. It is simply stating that the vehicle meets the minimum statutory requirements in terms of safety, such as brakes, suspension and lights. It could have a RWC and an engine knock indicated a major engine breakdown.
Happy car shopping