Hints And Tips When Purchasing A Second Hand Car

Purchasing a car is one of the most important moments in a person’s life which is why this subject should be treated with utmost seriousness in order to avoid any regrets in the future. Ads selling second hand cars have multiplied greatly in recent years and that we can only rejoice because it leaves us with many choices from which we can take our pick. Of course, we all want a brand new car, but because of the limited fund some of us have, we have to buy only a used one. Precaution is the key word when buying second-hand items (not just a car) so in this article we want to offer some helpful tips:

First of all, it is good to know that the depreciation of used cars is much less in comparison to a brand new one and as a consequence, they are considered to be a more cost effective purchase. Prior to selecting a car, make sure that you get your finance in place as it will save you valuable time knowing which cars you can and cannot afford. Be very attentive to the current ‘going rate’ of automobiles prior to purchasing by checking out the guides available from the newsagents that list the value of most used cars.

Take into consideration all of your options, not only secondhand dealers. With other words, make sure that you check out trade-ins at new car dealerships and private sales. It is recommended to purchase a car that is max 3 years old and was driven for only 10,000 – 15,000 miles per year. The average annual mileage is approximately 10,000 and for a car that is about 3 years old, 25,000 – 35,000 would be a good number. Anything above a 35,000 figure states that the car has been used for business (especially taxi) or just driven hard. Small and medium saloons (sedans) as well as hatchbacks are easier to repair and maintain in comparison to a luxury car or a convertible.

When inspecting a vehicle, the most important thing to do is to check out the engine plate and see if it corresponds with the registration documents. Just as important, NEVER purchase a car you have not driven, it may look that the car is in mint condition but it can have a lot of hidden flaws that you will find out about too late. It is recommended to take it for a drive that covers all sorts of terrains in different conditions. For example, you should take it to a fast motorway driving, a slow urban driving and twisting roads.

While inspecting the body work of the car always do it where there is good lighting in order to spot all the defects. Look for rust and/or corrosion. For cars over five years old, rust is most likely the most damaging issue. The surface blisters are a minor problem which can be resolved quite easily but corrosion from the inside of the body panels is a huge issue. Also, remember to look for rust at the top and rear of the front wings, along the side sills, below rear and front bumpers and the bottom of the doors.

Walk around the automobile and take a look along the doors and wings from each of the four corners as any crash repairs will definitely show up if they have not been well done. You will see ripples or a change in the texture of the paint if there is a lot of body filler underneath. We advise you to take a small magnet; it will be attracted to metal but not to plastic body filler. Look also for variations in the paint color. A water stain around the windows or on the carpets is a clear sign of leaks, especially in the boot area.

An automobile that has been in any kind of collision can be dangerous, especially if its suspension and/or steering have been damaged in any matter. Examine carefully under the bonnet for any damage, creasing or replaced inner wings (unsightly welds are a give-away). Also, remember to inspect the engine bay forward panels and forward chassis legs for repairs or creases.

First thing to do when entering the vehicle is to carefully check out the mileage at the odometer. If the numbers are out of the line, it is a clear sign that the mileage has been altered. Check out if the posted mileage reflects the general condition of the vehicle. For a car that has done more than 60,000 miles, the gear lever usually shows wear marks and the brake pedal in most cases shows signs of important usage. A car that has only a few thousand miles after 2-3 years usually shows that it has not been used for a very long time or it has been used for short trips; both situations can cause engine problems.

The engine of the car is one of the most important components of any vehicle. First thing to do is to check out the general state of it. A dirty one usually implies that the owner did not really take care of it and servicing it was neglected. On the other side, a very ‘shiny’ engine means that it could have been cleaned thoroughly in order to hide problems like oil leaks.

Prior to starting the engine, check out the color of the oil by removing the dipstick. If the color is very black, it usually means that the car has not been serviced recently, or at all. Also, do not forget to check for beige “mayonnaise” on the dipstick, a possible symptom of head gasket leakage. An engine that was run without antifreeze may have a serious problem which is why you should check out the quantity and the color of the coolant. It must be the color of antifreeze and not a rusty red color pattern.

Listen carefully the engine when starting up from cold. The oil indicator light must turn off soon after ignition; if this situation does not occur, there may be engine wear. Heavy rattling and/or knocking noises very soon after ignition might suggest wear of the crankshaft and big-end bearings. Listen for clattering or light knocking noises from the top of the engine which indicate camshaft wear.

After turning on the ignition, open the throttle sharply. Check out for blue or black smoke coming from the exhaust. The blue smoke comes from burning oil and suggests engine wear while the black smoke suggests unburned fuel and has several possible causes. While drive testing the car you must check out the engine to see if it misfires. If it does, it is best to avoid the car. Listen to any pinking sounds like metallic rattling that usually occurs when the throttle is open.

Moving on to the transmission; if the car is equipped with a manual gearbox, check the clutch and see if it works smoothly and all of the gears (including reverse) work easily. If the gear change stiffens as revs increase the clutch may be worn. Check for clutch slip by driving the car up a hill in top gear.

When driving change down into each gear from a higher speed than normal to test the synchromesh. If the gears baulk and/or crunch; or if the gearbox of the vehicle ‘whines’ in an excessive matter; then the only solutions are a gearbox overhaul or replacement. If the car has an automatic transmission, check the transmission dipstick for optimal fluid level, this is best done with the engine hot and idling.

For suspension verifications, check out the shock absorbers or dampers by pushing down hard on the bodywork at the corners and letting go. The car should rebound once just past the level position and afterwards go back. Verify if there are any knocks from the suspension over poor road surfaces which might indicate that the bushes are worn, as well as dampers and joint.

Moving on to the steering, if it is vague and heavy, it usually means that the tires are worn or under pressurized. You need to rock the steering wheel in a gentle matter while watching the front wheel. There should not be any noticeable delay between the road wheel movement and the steering wheel.

As far as the braking is concerned, the pedal must offer a good resistance and not sink most of the way to the floor when applied. If it has servo braking, check out that it actually works. In order to do so, pump the brake pedal for a couple of times, holding it down and starting the engine. You should feel the pedal creep down as it operates. Also, remember to verify the brake hoses under the wheel arches for chafing, leaks and eventual swelling.

Last but definitely not least, the tires. Check them on the side walls on all of them, including the spare wheel. There should be more than 2mm of tread all over the tire and the sidewalls should not be damaged or cracked. An uneven wear on treads usually suggests steering, tracking or suspension problems.

Good luck.

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