If you are thinking of buying or leasing a used car, it is a good idea to inspect the car’s condition before making any final decision. Though it is helpful to consult a professional mechanic, you can identify most potential issues by looking over a used car yourself.
Before looking over a used car, read online reviews of the particular model to see if it is prone to mechanical problems. When you go to check out the car in person, make sure you inspect it inside, outside and under the hood.
- Inspect the upholstery for rips and holes. Check to see if the seats are worn, and make sure the headliner is not sagging or falling away from the roof.
- Try out everything in the interior that is designed to move. Adjust the seat positions, tilt the steering wheel, roll down the windows and lock the doors. Make sure everything still works, and you can get comfortable inside.
- Make sure the radio, climate control and dashboard gauges all work.
- Look for rust, dents, scratches and mismatched paint on the body panels.
- Look for cracks in the windows. A small windshield crack will grow over time.
- Check the wear on the tires. Uneven tread wear can indicate suspension or alignment problems. Even if the wear is uniform, an old set of tires — especially on a sports car or SUV — can cost several hundred dollars to replace.
Under the hood
- Check the fluid levels. Low oil or coolant could indicate poor maintenance, a leak or a problem within the engine.
- If the engine compartment is dirty, a fluid leak is likely to blame.
- Check under the engine compartment for drips or fresh stains on the pavement.
- Look over the rubber belts and hoses for fraying and cracks. Squeeze the hoses to make sure they are neither hard and brittle, nor mushy and weak.
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