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The Complete Used Car Checklist

Before you buy a used car, there are plenty of things to think about. Unfortunately, many people tend to forget those things once they’re involved in the browsing and buying process. The easiest way to avoid used car issues is to have a Used Car Checklist on hand as you begin your search.
Read on to find out what you need to check before you buy.

The Car Exterior
Your exterior checklist should include all of the following:

Body Condition Check: Look for obvious damage like dents, holes, and rust. Make sure the panels are evenly aligned, as well. While a little ding or two might be fine, major dents and rust might indicate that the car wasn’t well cared for.

Tire Check: Check to see if the tires are a matched set. If there are two or more tire brands, or if there is dramatically different wear from one tire to the next, it’s worth asking the seller why. The seller may have failed to rotate the tires regularly, and uneven wear is a tell-tale sign of this. If the vehicle hasn’t had any real damage and has been cared for properly, the tires will usually match.

Lights Check: Turn on the vehicle lights to be sure that they work. Have a friend stand behind the vehicle to check the brake lights for you, and don’t forget to check the high beam lights as well. Check each turn signal, front and back. As you do these checks, make sure that the light housings are secure, with no clouding, cracks, or moisture inside.

The Car Interior
The Used Car Checklist for the vehicle’s interior should include all of the following:

Smell Check: The smell test is an easy one: Just sit in the vehicle and sniff. Are there any odors? Some common odors in used cars might be cigarette smoke, air fresheners, or food smells. Those odors might be a bit inconvenient, but they’ll often dissipate over time. However, if you smell something musty or moldy, it may be a serious cause for concern. This may indicate that the vehicle has been flooded, or that it has a leak.

Seat Check: The seat check should include a visual examination of the upholstery, looking for holes or tears. While you’re at it, sit in each seat in turn and make sure that they can be adjusted properly.

Instrument Dashboard Check: A quick turn of the ignition will light up the instrument dash. You should see all the lights for a brief time, and then they’ll be gone. Be sure that no lights stay on. If that “Check Engine” light stays on continuously, there is clearly a cause for concern.

Control Check: Start with the emergency lights and move on to every interior control in turn. Don’t forget the air and heat. It may seem odd to try to blast the heat if you’re in mid-summer, but you’ll be glad you did later. Make sure the radio, cd player, and any other audio components work during this control check, too.

The Engine and Other Components
This part of the Used Car Checklist can be the most challenging for many people, and that is why it’s always wise to have a professional mechanic double check any used car you plan on purchasing. However, even a person who is completely unfamiliar with the under the hood area can do the following basic checks:

Fluids: Many of the fluids are visible easily when you’re looking under the hood. Try to check the oil if possible. Also look at the levels of transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid.

Battery: Make sure the battery is properly connected, checking for corrosion around the connections.

Radiator: Look at the radiator to see if any stains are visible. Any colored stains on the radiator may reveal a leak, and rusty stains indicate some type of issue as well.

Hoses: Look at hoses to see if they are new-looking and free of holes. If the drive belts are easily visible, try to check for wear at this time as well.

Engine: Stains of any type on the engine may indicate an oil leak, but you’ll need a professional diagnosis to be sure.

Use the tips above to be well armed with knowledge as a used car buyer today!


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