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Try Before You Buy: 8 Things to Look for in a Used Car Inspection

Finding the right used car can be one of the best financial moves you can ever make. Everybody knows the value of a brand-new car drops significantly the moment it leaves the lot. Why should you be the one to take that depreciation hit? If you shop carefully, you’ll find a great car and save a lot of cash in the process. In addition to getting car insurance comparison quotes before you buy, here are eight other things to look for in a used car inspection.

1. Accident Damage

Poorly repaired accident damage can cause significant problems down the line. Frame damage, suspension damage and internal engine damage can be expensive to repair. For this reason, you should get a vehicle history report on every car you find interesting enough to potentially purchase. This will tell you if the car has been in a major crash. It will also tell you if the car has a salvage title, which means it was once considered too expensive to repair by an insurance company.

2. Overall Body Condition

Look for mismatched paint, as well as poor alignment in the doors, hood, fenders and trunk lid. These could indicate sloppy repair work after an accident. Open and close the hood, doors and trunk. Resistance may indicate hidden damage. Examine all the windows for scratches, pitting and cracks. Press down on the car’s body over each of the tires to see how the suspension responds. Creaks and groans mean problems are afoot. If you get little on no resistance, the shocks are shot.

3. Rust

Bubbly looking painted surfaces indicate the body is rotting beneath the paint. Rust damage can be expensive to repair. Look underneath the car with a flashlight for rust on the exhaust system and suspension components near the ground.

4. Tire and Wheel Wear/Damage

All four tires should be the same brand and model and should have approximately the same amount of tread. They should also be wearing evenly all the way across. Check the sidewalls for dryness and cracks; this indicates the tires are old and unsafe. Inspect the wheels for scratches, dents and heavy curb rash. Light scratches are usually OK, but dents and deep curb rash mean the previous owner may have compromised the alignment.

5. General Mechanical Condition

Complete the following while the engine is cold. Check out the hoses and drive belts for dryness, cracks and signs of wear. Belts should be silent when the engine is operation, if they squeak or chirp; they’re on their way out. Look for signs of fluid leaks from the hoses. If you see excess oil on engine surfaces or on the ground beneath the car, it could mean the engine is slowly bleeding to death. Check the levels and conditions of every fluid. If the owner let these go low, they skimped on the car’s other needs as well.

6. Interior Wear and Tear

Open the door, put your head inside and take a deep breath through your nose. Mold and mildew are also signs of water damage—a reason to pass. Look at the pedals. If the seller says the car has 40,000 miles on it, but the pedals show a lot of wear, the actual mileage is considerably higher. Test the A/C, audio system, navigation system and any other electronic features to make sure they function properly. Check that the windows work smoothly. Look at the seats for creasing, wear, rips and holes. Check the seat belts for proper operation.

7. Test Drive

If everything above is fine, take the car for a test drive. As you’re driving, listen for squeaks, rattles, grinding noises and the like. When you step on the brakes, the car should glide to a stop smoothly, without noise. Driving on a straight and level road, the car should track without pulling to one side. Turning should require minimal effort. Drive over a railroad crossing at a moderate speed. The suspension should absorb the bump and stabilize the car immediately. Check the speedometer, tachometer and other gauges to be sure they’re working properly.

8. A Mechanic’s Inspection

If you’re still interested in the car after subjecting it to all of the above, take it to an independent mechanic. Have them conduct a thorough inspection and give you a detailed report. This is the single most important step. If you get the mechanic’s blessing, make an offer and enjoy life with your new (to you) car.

Paying close attention to these eight things to look for in a used car inspection will help ensure years of value and safety. Then it’s time to check out car insurance comparison quotes with CoverHound!

Insurance shopping simplified

Review personalized quotes, select coverages, and buy online - Everything insurance, all-in-one-place.

Insurance shopping simplified

Review personalized quotes, select coverages, and buy online - Everything insurance, all-in-one-place.

Insurance shopping simplified

Review personalized quotes, select coverages, and buy online - Everything insurance, all-in-one-place.
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