The Ultimate Checklist for Buying a Used Car

Purnika Anand
Est. Reading Time 6 mins

It is a common adage that a brand new car loses around 15-20% of its value as soon as it is driven off the car dealer’s lot. Well, it might not drop that much immediately, but after just one year the price is going to be significantly lower. This is the main selling point of buying a pre-owned car as you get an almost new car at a significant discount. But as with all bargains, it is the buyer’s responsibility to find out all that they can about the car they are buying before sealing the deal. You definitely want to avoid buying cars that have been involved in a major accident and then repaired or ones that have had bad drivers who may have damaged the mechanics by not knowing how to operate the machine properly. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors that can help you buy a secondhand car that is in great condition and meets your budget requirement.

1) Age Of The Car

The first thing that determines the price of the car is its age. This should be easy to ascertain as the papers of the car will state which year the specific model was made. Always get the car inspected by an independent mechanic so that you can find out if there are any hidden faults which may cost you more money in the long run. Also, check the odometer to find out how many kilometres the car has travelled overall. A vehicle that has done more than 130,000 km isn’t a good buy as most of the parts could be worn out from overuse.

2) Engine

The engine is the heart of any vehicle without which it is not going to move. These complex machines have a lot of moving parts and they all need to function optimally for a smooth right. Engine parts may face wear and tear over time and the more time the car has spent on the road the more the damage. If the previous owner took care of the car well and performed timely maintenance, the engine should be in good condition. One of the best ways to identify a damaged engine is to check for leaks. There are many fluids that make their way through the engine and damaged parts will have oil stains as well as sludge or dirt stuck to it. Check for oil leaks under the car where it has been parked. Check the car for coolant leaks, power steering fluid leaks, gearbox fluid leaks, and head gasket leaks. Check the oil levels on the dipstick and ensure it is at the correct levels. A poorly maintained or serviced vehicle will have dirt and grime covering the connectors. Also, check the colour of the smoke that comes out of the exhaust pipes as this is a good indicator of hidden issues. A little smoke when the car starts shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but if the exhaust generates a lot of white or blue smoke then look for another vehicle. If the engine is burning too much fuel, then the colour will be black, but this issue can be fixed easily. White smoke is generally attributed to a blown gasket whereas blue smoke means that somehow oil is leaking into the engine and getting burned.

3) The Clutch And The Gearbox

You will have to test this part out by going for a quick drive. It is impossible to see inside the gearbox without taking it apart but you can definitely feel it while driving. If the vehicle is automatic, check if all the gears transition smoothly and quietly. In cars with a manual gearbox, the clutch biting point should only be around the middle of the pedal’s travel. If the clutch needs to be pushed all the way to the floor, it is a clear sign that there could be issues which will need to be addressed. Either way for both manual and automatic cars any resistance or grinding noises is a red flag. Check for the smooth functioning (flow) of the gearstick or the steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles while driving. Keep in mind that Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearboxes don’t actually change gears.

4) Bodywork

This is considerably easier than checking the engine as all you have to do is check visually to identify any dents, damage from wear and tear, rust, signs of repainting, mismatched panels, etc. It can easily tell you if the car has been in an accident. Minor dents are generally found on most used cars, especially around the doors or bumper areas. Ensure you check areas that are not visible outside such as the insides of the doors, under the car, inside the engine compartment, boot area, etc. to see if there are any rust spots. Go around the car and look for bubbles under the paintwork which is a sign that rust may be forming there. Check around and inside the wheel arches as this area is known to collect dirt, grime, grit and water resulting in damage from rust if not washed regularly. You can identify shoddily done repairs by checking the body in bright daylight to see if there is any paintwork that isn’t uniform, or if there are any paint oversprays on glass, rubber seals and plastic trims. Check to see if the doors, hood, and boot shut properly and that there are no gaps or tightness. Also remember, repairs aren’t necessarily a bad thing if they have been executed properly.

5) Tyres

Inspect the tyres without forgetting about the spare in the boot for cuts, splits, gouges or bulges. Ensure the treads are at least 1.6 mm deep all around and look for uneven tyre wear which is an indicator of poor wheel or suspension alignment. Tyres can be a costly replacement. Check the rims for dents or bends that may require repair or replacement.

6) Interiors

Check for damage on the dashboard, seat upholstery, roof, etc. Lift the carpets in the front and back seats to look for any damage and also do the same for the boot. Switch on the air conditioner and try the various cooling levels and ventilation modes. Examine the other electric features such as the windows, sunroof, radio and central locking to see if they function correctly. Inspect the boot to confirm it contains a spare tyre.

7) Test Drive

The final check to perform is the test drive which can tell you a lot about the car. Check for any warning lights when you switch on the car and drive at different speeds to listen to how the engine performs. Try scenarios where the brake and clutch are used to see if they are responsive and to identify issues.

8) Documentation

The paperwork will tell you a lot about the car’s history from how old the car is to if any work was carried out or parts fitted. Ensure all the certificates are up-to-date and meet the Ministry of Transport (MoT) guidelines for vehicle safety, exhaust emissions, and roadworthiness. Take a look at the service book to see who has serviced the car, and when.

Shop at CARS24 for the best-preowned cars in the UAE

When shopping for pre-owned cars, save valuable time and effort by shopping for them on the hassle-free and easy-to-use CARS24 website. Cars sold by CARS24 undergo a stringent 150-point quality check and a thorough refurbishment process before being listed on the site. We also provide a 7-days return policy and 2 years of warranty for every vehicle purchased on the site thereby ensuring complete peace of mind for all our customers.

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