Buying a second-hand car isn’t quite as simple as bargain hunting at the thrift shop or scoring a good deal on Gumtree. Good quality used cars still demand a high price tag, so it pays to do your research.
Want to know exactly what to look for when buying a used car? Read this used car checklist to help you spot the difference between a gem and a lemon.
1. Check the engine
The engine is the workhorse of any car. As such, it should be given serious attention during an inspection. Without a good quality engine, even the shiniest Lamborghini can be an absolute washout.
For this reason, it’s best to get the engine checked by a qualified mechanic. This is generally the final step. Before you commit to an engine check, here are some other key things to pay attention to when buying a used car.
When inspecting a used vehicle, look under the frame to see if you can spot any signs of leaks. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker if you do see a small pool of liquid or a few drops of oil. However, it does pay to know about any leakage issues before you commit.
3. Head gasket
Set between the upper and lower parts of the engine, the head gasket plays a critical role in engine performance. It stops oil and coolant from entering the cylinders and can cause major issues if it malfunctions.
A quick look at the head gasket will give you an idea of whether it’s in good condition. Remove the oil cap and look for light brown or cream coloured sludge. This is a tell-tale sign of a blown head gasket and a major red flag when it comes to buying a second-hand car.
4. Oil check
Oil checks are a common part of car maintenance and shouldn’t be overlooked. A simple glance at the dipstick can tell you a lot about the overall condition of the car. Dark and dirty oil is a bad sign and typically indicates poor car maintenance by the previous owner.
A keen eye and good attention to detail can reveal plenty of clues when buying a second-hand car. Check out the bodywork for a better idea of a car’s history. A replaced panel could indicate the car has been in a serious accident.
Similarly, a car that looks fantastic on the outside, but has red dust engrained under the wheel rims and inside the seat covers may have been on a year-long road trip around Australia. Don’t be scared to ask questions to get a better idea of a used car’s history.
6. Exhaust smoke
As you pull out of the lot for your test drive, ask a friend to keep an eye on the colour and consistency of the exhaust. Excessive smoke indicates an issue that needs to be looked into. For example, blue smoke suggests the engine is burning oil, while white smoke can indicate a blown head gasket.
7. Clutch and gear box
If you’re purchasing a manual vehicle, take the clutch and gearbox through their paces before buying. This step is all about how the car feels when you shift through gears and find the clutch biting point.
Even if you’re test driving an automatic car, you should still be able to get a good idea of how smooth or rough the gear changes are. Resistance, grinding noises and sticky clutches are all issues that should be investigated before buying a second-hand car.
Few things give more away than a car’s interior. Pay attention to the condition of the dashboard, upholstery, steering wheel, side bolsters and roof lining. If the car is looking a little tired, but the mileage is relatively low, it might be a good time to question the seller’s honesty about mileage.
A solid paper trail can offer great peace of mind when purchasing a used car. Ask the seller for proof of servicing and repairs. This builds a good foundation for negotiating a better price. You should also carry out a comprehensive vehicle history check to uncover any red flags or need-to-know issues.
Do you need help finding the best used cars in Brisbane? Contact The Vehicle Broker for professional negotiation, detailed research and vehicle sourcing.