Not the most obvious thing to check, but tyres can actually be one of the most expensive parts to replace on any car. Making sure you buy a used car with good tyre depths left on all four wheels is essential – as having to replace four tyres will typically cost several hundred dollars. Couple that with the potential danger (and hence insurance costs) of driving a car which has bald tyres and it makes you realise why the rubber is so important!
The service history of any car is the only real way of making sure the car you’re buying has been looked after. Service intervals also show the car’s mileage, meaning you can check to see if it’s ever been clocked or if something is not quite right.
Remember, a service is essential to keep the car running smoothly. Don’t under-estimate the importance of a good service history.
Chances are you’ll want to take the car out for a test-drive before you buy, but one of the things many people forget to check is the condition of the brakes. The best thing to do is try a few emergency stops to ensure that: 1. The ABS is in fully working order and, 2. that the brakes actually stop the car as they should. New brakes all-round can cost an absolute fortune, so it’s best to make sure you don’t get caught short.
The car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a very simple but often forgotten about way of confirming your car hasn’t been messed around with. If the VIN doesn’t match up to the number on the logbook, then walk away! There are too many horror stories to justify buying a car that doesn’t have matching VIN’s.
An unbelievably simple way of finding out if the car has ever been stolen or written-off is the HPI data check. It takes 10 minutes and HPI will give you a detailed history report on that particular car – including information from the official sources like the Police and insurance companies. This is an absolute must do in today’s used car buying world!
If you’re in the market for a small hatchback then be aware of the car with all the sparkly bits. Teenage drivers and ‘boy-racers’ enjoy modifying their cars and if you don’t have an eye for mods then you could end up buying a 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa with an 1100w sub in the boot – something not everyone will appreciate.
If you’re unsure on what an original and unmodified version of the car you’re looking at is, then just take a picture along with you of one that hasn’t been ruined and compare. Aftermarket spoilers and skirts tend to be a warning sign.
Checking the condition and level of the oil in the car’s engine is a basic but effective way of checking that the engine is in good condition. The engine oil is the life-blood of the engine; without it, you’re not going anywhere, so make sure it has been well-looked after and has plenty of oil to keep it humming along.
If you’re a novice, all you need to do is find a rag, lift the dipstick, take it out of the engine, wipe clean, dip it back in and lift it out once more and check that the oil level is somewhere between minimum and maximum – if it’s not, then you need to think about your potential purchase and if it’s worth it.
George is a writer at Vcars.co.uk – check out their in depth guide to buying a used car for more tips (UK focus).