Buying a used car can be one of the most stressful things we do. With so much to go wrong that may be expensive to put right it’s important we don’t miss any problems before we’ve handed over the cash. And so Sanjay Odedra of Elite Autoworks uses all of his many years experience to give us a crash course on what to look for so hopefully we don’t.
Check that the body has a consistent paint finish and is the same shade all over the car. If it’s not, it might have had some damage and a respray.
Make sure the gaps between the panels are the same width. If not, this could again be a sign the car has been involved in an accident.
Check the doors and the boot open and close smoothly and examine the rubber seals for paint. If there’s any overspray it points to a respray.
Look underneath the engine for signs of oil, water or other fluid leaks.
Remove the engine oil dipstick. The oil should be golden and free from debris – if it’s not, it will need changing and could indicate neglect.
Check the engine coolant (large, often round tank with a screw cap filled with pink fluid) is at the correct indicated level when the engine is cool.
Check the battery terminals and connectors on top of the battery are rust-free and in good condition. A new battery can cost over £100 if it needs replacing.
Make sure that wear on the seats, steering wheel and pedals are consistent with the car’s mileage. High mileage cars often show wear on the side bolsters while the steering wheel may be shiny and the rubber on the pedals worn away.
Check that all the interior electrical items work. These include the air conditioning, windows, sunroof, adjustable seats and – where fitted – the interior operated fuel-filler and boot release.
Damage to the steering column and ignition could indicate the car has been stolen at some point.
Look closely at the passenger side of the dashboard and the steering wheel cover. Frayed seatbelts could indicate they’ve been activated in an emergency and damage to the dashboard and steering wheel could mean the car’s airbags have been activated in a crash.
Ensure the car’s logbook has all the correct service schedule stamps plus any old bills and receipts to establish that the car has been cared for.
Look at each MOT certificate and servicing stamp – the car’s total mileage should increase at a steady rate. If there’s a sudden slow down of mileage ask the vendor why. The last one of each should also tie in with its current mileage.
If the car is higher mileage look for a receipt if the cambelt has been changed. If it hasn’t then it will need doing immediately. Elite Autoworks can also do this and – like other independent specialists – is much cheaper than a main dealer.
Check the tyres and the spare wheel with a tread depth gauge. The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm across the width of the tyre, but more is better both for safety and so you don’t need to buy a new set soon after purchase.
Make sure the tyres are worn evenly. More wear on one side of the tyre usually indicates the suspension or tracking is out of alignment. Elite Autoworks can rectify this.
If the car has alloys fitted check for damage around the edges since this can be expensive to repair.
Look for the key for the wheel locks – it can be a costly and complicated business to drill them out if it’s missing.
Peartree Business Centre, Bretton Way, Peterborough, PE3 8YU
Tel: 01733 265812