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How to Check the Condition of a Used Car


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We all know that buying a used car can save a lot of money, especially when it comes to dealing with taxes, shipping fees, dealership service charges, import costs and the premium that comes with brand new car ownership.

However, when you purchase a used car, it's important to investigate the vehicle thoroughly. If you're not in a position to bring a prospective vehicle to a trusted mechanic, keep reading to learn how to check the condition of a used car.

1. Start with the Exterior

Begin your inspection of the vehicle by examining the exterior of the car. First, do a general overview of the paint, checking for rust damage, scratches or evidence of damage from an accident.

Second, look at how the car balances. Does it sag to one side? This could be indicative of spring, frame, axle or tire problems.

Finally, check the car's peripheral components like the lights, windows, rims, mirrors and locks. Make sure they're all there, functioning and in good working order.

2. Move to the Interior

While the interior of the car isn't crucial to how well a car runs, it can be indicative of the car's overall well-being and maintenance history. A clean, well-maintained interior is often evidence of an owner who has looked after their car.

Check for odors, stains or burn marks. While you're inside the car, also make sure the pedals are all in good order, the controls are all functioning and, yes, even that the radio works.

Remember to look in the trunk too. Inspect for rust, holes, water problems or any signs of disrepair.

3. Now, get Under the Hood

It's recommended that you take any prospective used vehicle purchase to a licensed, third-party mechanic to inspect the car. However, if you don't have the time or means to undergo a thorough inspection, there are a few items you can look for to help you determine a vehicle's quality.

First, start with the wiring and connections. Are they rusted over and barely hanging on, or clean and securely fastened? Is the engine covered in oily goo, or generally clean-functioning? Are the fans and belts threadbare, or in good condition?

4. Take it for a Drive

Always take a potential car purchase for a test drive. You want to know how the car runs and handles, and the best way to do that is to drive it. If a seller won't let you drive a car that he or she claims is drivable and road-safe, walk away from the sale.

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