How to Inspect a Pre-Owned Vehicle Before Purchase

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Buying a pre-owned vehicle comes with a host of perks. You can enjoy the same features and fun driving experience as you would with a new vehicle, and you'll pay a lower price. However, as much as you're looking forward to settling into a fresh ride, you need to be cautious before you commit to anything. Here are some pointers on how to inspect a pre-owned vehicle before you welcome it into your garage.

Look Beyond the Obvious

People who sell used cars often make an effort to make the car look good, as they rightly should. They might put a new coat of wax on the car and give the interior a thorough cleaning. However, you should look beyond those things.

Carefully inspect the upholstery. Look for minor tears that could worsen over time. Also keep an eye out for stains. When you're first examining a car, it may smell good because of air fresheners and cleaning chemicals. However, some stains come with a lingering odor. Perhaps the car's seller can fix these problems before you buy. Alternatively, you could use aesthetic flaws as a way to bargain for a lower price.

Make Sure Everything Works

If you're buying a car in the winter, you might not give much thought to its air conditioning system. Conversely, if you're shopping in the summer, you might neglect to test out those heated seats. Try out every feature of the car, including its sound system, electronic windows and door locks, turn signals and lights, and any extras like DVD players, Bluetooth connectivity, remote start, etc.

Ask about a warranty for things that you can't test out yourself, including extra safety features. While such a warranty may not be available, it doesn't hurt to look into the options. Many used car dealerships will at least offer a warranty on a pre-owned car's powertrain.

Check for Leaks

Before you test drive a pre-owned vehicle, look underneath it and check the pavement for any signs of a leak. Also check the fluid levels under the hood. It's easy to check oil, coolant, and transmission fluid levels. If anything seems low, or if the oil or transmission fluid seems unusually dirty, address this concern with the car's seller.

Also think about water leaks. You don't want to be surprised by a leak in your trunk or around one of the doors. Try to go car shopping after it has rained; this will enable you to check the car for damp spots that could indicate that one of the doors or the moon roof isn't sealing properly. Leaks can lead to mold and rust, so don't take this part of the inspection lightly.

Pay Attention to the Tires

Tires are among the most important vehicle parts. Make sure any vehicle you're thinking about buying has plenty of tread on its tires. The penny test is an old go-to for checking the tread. When you insert a penny upside down into the tire's tread, if you can see the top of Lincoln's head, the tires should be replaced.

Also check the sidewalls for cracks. If a car has sat around for a long time, the tires might have plenty of tread, but rubber can dry out over time, weakening the tires and increasing the risk that one might get a hole or even blow apart altogether.

Be Thorough During Your Test Drive

Take your time when you test drive the car. Drive it at different speeds and on the freeway if you can. Driving in different conditions can help you find problems that might not be noticeable in city driving alone. Listen for odd noises or odd sensations. How does the steering wheel feel in your hands? If it shimmies a little, there could be an alignment problem.

Ask for a Car History Report

A reputable dealership will give you a look at a vehicle's Carfax history report. The report will tell you things like if the car has been in any collisions. Even if a good body shop repaired the car after an accident, there could be unseen problems that might plague you later.

You can also ask about a car's previous owners. If the last owner of the car was handy with a wrench, the maintenance records might not show how well the car was cared for.

Finding the perfect pre-owned vehicle for your family doesn't have to be a stressful process. Just be sure to thoroughly inspect any car you're thinking about taking home.

Categories: Pre-Owned Inventory, News