Checking of a Used Car – What to Check for When Purchasing a Used Car

Posted on Jan 4, 2017

Buying a used vehicle is both exciting and daunting. Fraudsters are around every corner and it’s often difficult to separate them from the thousands of good, honest sellers. That is, at least, unless you’re experienced in mechanics and are able to determine the value of the vehicle but also uncover any faults hidden beneath the surface.


As one of Amersham’s leading servicing and MOT centres, Holmer Green Service Centre see the aftermath of poor purchasing decisions by eager drivers in search of a bargain far too often. This is particularly the case in the New Year, as both first time and seasoned drivers pull enough money together to treat themselves to a new set of wheels.


In this article, therefore, we’ll be providing you with a concise and easy to follow checklist to have in hand when viewing any used vehicle. Whether that used car is one manufactured in recent years or over a decade old, each of the points remains pivotal and will help ensure that you’re buying a car that is both safe and long-term.


On First Appearance 


Whilst many buyers often focus on the exterior of the vehicle far too much, it is still an important aspect of the car and indicates whether it has been cared for or not. This is particularly the case for vehicles over five years old, where dents and rust are avoidable yet easily gained when not cared for by their owner.


Firstly, check for rust on the entire body of the car. Wheel arches and the edges of each individual panel are particularly vulnerable. Early signs of rust on such areas is easily treatable, but if it has been allowed to fester for a considerable length of time the damage may go far beyond the paintwork alone.


Whilst checking the panels for rust, also ensure that they each fit perfectly. If they do not, it is a sign that they have been replaced following an accident. Whilst this is not a major issue, it will of course impact both the asking price and increase the likelihood of other issues arising with the car.


Finally, check the major parts of the vehicle which impact your day-to-day driving. This includes the windscreen, tyres and spare wheel. The windscreen should be free of any severe chips which could cost a small fortune to mend. Tyres, on the other hand, should have a minimum tread of 1.6mm across the width and have no bulges or tears on the sides. Should any of these issues be overlooked you could be driving illegally, whether it’s immediately after purchasing the car or not.


Beneath the Bonnet


The engine is both complex and incredibly important, making those with little knowledge vulnerable. Although, there are a handful of simple checks that can be made which indicate the overall health of the engine.


Firstly, remove the oil dipstick and check that the oil is both golden and clear. Should it be darker on a petrol engine, it may require servicing. You should also ensure that there is not a build-up of any white substance beneath the engine oil cap, which can indicate that there is an issue with the head gasket.


Next, start the engine and ensure that you are doing so whilst the engine is cold. This will provide you with the greatest opportunity to listen out for any unusual sounds coming from beneath the bonnet. At the same time check that there is not any substantial smoke being emitted from the exhaust or egg-like smells.


Finally, ensure that you take the car for a test drive. This is the only way to ensure that the engine is not pulling or that there are no severe issues with the steering, suspension, brakes or gears.


It is also recommended that you take an experienced mechanic with you before purchasing any car. This is as they will be able to check further areas of the vehicles health, many of which are not outlined above.


The Boring Paperwork


Whilst paperwork is boring, ensuring that any car you purchase has all the necessary paperwork is vital. This includes the logbook, any existing MOT certificate and a receipt. Should your vehicle not have an existing MOT, an authorised garage such as our own in the will be able to assist.