50 20 checks you should do before buying second hand car

20 checks you should do before buying second hand car

By Vukasin Herbez on 2018-07-06 13:38:13

Used car market is very tempting these days. You can pick up perfect, slightly used examples with good equipment and in fantastic condition for just a fraction of the original price. Some cars on offer are so good and so affordable that you start thinking what is the point of buying a brand new car? However you might ask are used cars all that great and are there hidden and expensive problems below the shiny paint jobs? Here is 20 things you should always check before buying a second hand car just to be sure that you‘ll get what you paid for and avoid costly mistakes.

Service history file

All used cars should come with full service history from day one describing all the work that has been done and all the parts that were replaced. If the car doesn't‘t have a tidy service history file with dates and listings, it is either serviced by a backyard mechanic or not serviced at all. Either way, you shouldn't’ consider buying it.


Before any further inspection, you should check the car‘s paperwork. Registration, insurance policy, receipts and all other relevant pieces of documentation should be there.

Check the paint job

Visually check the paint job for any imperfections, scratches or repair marks. The car‘s paint should be flawless and if it is not the same shade or some panels look too shiny compared to the rest of the car, it is a clear sign of body repairs.

Check for rust issues

Modern cars are all rust protected from the factory, but still can develop some rust problems if neglected or poorly repaired. In most cases rust will appear on the floors, wheel arches or on the bottom of luggage compartment, so those are the areas to check.

Panel gaps

If the car has been damaged or crashed and then repaired, panel gaps between the doors, front wings, bonnet or trunk lid will not be perfectly even. Check for big panel gaps as a sign of previous repairs or replaced body panels.

Check the tires

Tires are very important and they could tell you a lot about the condition of a car’s suspension. If all four tires are the same type, brand and dimension, it is a good sign. The tires should be worn equally and if they are not it could mean that the suspension needs fixing.

Inspect the glass surfaces of the car

Thoroughly inspect all the glass on the car, especially mouldings and rubber weather-stripping around the glass. There shouldn’t be any cracks or scratches and if the rubber mouldings are broken or ripped, it is a sure sign of the glass being replaced.

Check under the hood

Visual check under the hood can reveal a lot of things. What you want to see is a dry area without any leaks. If there are big oil stains or water residue, that is a bad sign. Also, look for tidy electrics and avoid exposed wires or cables.

Oil cap

Even before starting the engine, take off the oil filler cap and look underneath. If the bottom is covered in slimy yellow mass, it means that the coolant has penetrated the oil system and there is a blown head gasket. Also, it could be a sign of more mechanical problems, so be advised.

Check shock absorbers

Lean on the fender and push the front of the car to the ground, inspecting shock absorbers. If the car starts to wobble it means that the front absorbers are worn out. If the car firmly returns into regular position, it means that the shocks are in good shape.

Inspect the hoses and belts

There are a lot of rubber hoses and belts under the hood. You don‘t need to know all of them, but you need to check them for wear. After several years, rubber starts to crack and it can cause big problems down the road.

Check the interior

The interior should be nice and tidy without any rips, cracked dashboard or stained seats. If you feel the smell of moisture inside, forget that vehicle. It means it has bad insulation and water has penetrated the interior.

See if everything works

Check the lights, air conditioning controls, if the board computer reads proper information, if the windows go up and down etc. You want a fully functioning car so be sure that all interior controls work as they should.


Most modern cars are equipped with a desirable option of a sunroof. However, a hole on the roof can cause problems with insulation if it wasn’t maintained correctly. So, check for cracks and water damage.

Go for a test drive

After you’ve got everything checked out, go for a test drive. The perfect test drive should be a bit longer and include city driving as well as open road just to test the car in all conditions.

Test the brakes

You don‘t need to perform panic stops and smoke the tires during your test drive. Just stop a few times and feel if the car stops firmly and straight. This means that the brake system is in good condition and it works as it should.

Automatic transmission

If the car is equipped with automatic gearbox, it should shift gears fast and without any noise. If the gearbox takes long to shift gears and makes crunching noise while doing it, it is sign of trouble.

Test the clutch

If the car is equipped with manual transmission, inspect the clutch for wear. When changing gears, clutch pedal should engage somewhere in the middle indicating that the pressure plate is in good condition.

Let go of the wheel for a second

To see if the suspension is properly aligned, during test drive at moderate speeds, let go of the wheel for a second. The car should continue going straight and if starts going to either side, it could indicate suspension problems.

Listen for any suspicious noises

During test drive, turn off the radio and listen to the car. The only thing you should hear is the engine or wind noise. If you hear rattling or cracking noises, inspect the cause.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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