It’s essential to know if the used car you are planning to buy has been in an accident, even if it’s been repaired. Accidents can cause problems not easily seen that might give trouble later on.
Look at the car in daylight. even the best headlights can’t show defects as well as daylight. Be sure to look for rust. Run your hands along the bottom of the car body and under the doors. If you feel any bumps or blisters in the paint or if the paint is peeling, you will soon have rust. If you feel any unevenness in the body of the car, slide a magnet along the area. Most bodywork is done in plastic, which wont attract the magnet. Also, look under the car for signs of fluid leaks.
Check under the hood. A dirty engine may mean it hasn’t been well maintained, If certain parts look newer than others, they have probably been replaced. Start the engine and listen for pings and knocks. test drive the car at least 10 miles. Test the brakes and steering. Stop and check the emergency brake, and check the gauges as well.
Turn off the engine let it cool down for a few minutes, and restart it. While accelerating slowly, listen to the transmission. A hollow revving noise in automatic transmissions, or a whining noise in manuals, means the transmission is on it’s last legs. That means a major repair job. Push down on the hood. If the car bounces twice, the shocks are worn out.
Look at the tires. Uneven treads can indicate an accident or an improper alignment. Even tread on only front tires would indicate serious suspension damage. Check the spare and make sure tire changing tools are in the car. Investigate the odometer. You can’t be sure it’s accurate, in fact the National Highway Safety Administrations estimates that one in every odometer has been tampered with. Ask the owner to have it certified in writing or look for other clues to indicate correct mileage. Check door jambs to see whether millage was recorded after a repair. Now, examine the interior, if arm rests and pedals are worn and odometer says 30,000, be skeptical.