What to watch out for when buying a used car

We all know the age old cliché about the second hand car dealer, count your fingers and all that. Fortunately, these days there are far more scrupulous dealers than there are unscrupulous. At Duffy Motors, we give the same high quality customer service to car sales as we do to car maintenance.

But generally speaking, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of the caution when spending such a large amount of money and, unless you’re a car mechanic, you may need to swot up on what to look out for before beginning your car purchase journey.

We’re going to highlight some key considerations and things to look out for when checking out a used car, focusing on the less technical elements which are often overlooked.

Check (all) the tyres

Checking the tread on the tyres is one of the first things buyers do; replacing tyres can be a costly addition to initial purchase price of a car. But, do you always remember to check the spare? It’s often tucked away in the boot or accasionally under the car so firstly, check there is one and then check what state its in.

If it is in need of replacement, you can legitimately ask for a discount because it will have to be replaced.

While you’re rooting around near the spare, double check to see if the jack and other tools are also there. You may need these to change a wheel one day and you don’t want to find out in the pouring rain on the hard shoulder of the M62!

Consider the weather

Viewing a vehicle in the right weather is more important than you think. Certainly don’t view a car in the dark but neither should you be doing your checks stood in the rain – it’s a guaranteed way of missing something important or hurrying through the checking process.

Moreover, if a seller has polished the car up prior to inspection, raindrops congealing on the polished surface can disguise marks and scratches.

On the flip side, though, rain can be useful for checking the effectiveness of windscreen wipers and the seals. And if taking it for a test drive it’s a  good opportunity to test the brakes and grip.

Air conditioning

Air con needs attending to from time to time and this costs money, so give the heat a good blast so you can feel it, likewise switch to cold straight after to see how well it works. You can tell if the coolant needs replacing or worse still, the functionality doesn’t work correctly.

Car entertainment and navigation

Most modern cars have factory built car entertainment systems which should be very secure from a theft point of view. However, if things go wrong they can be costly to fix, unlike the old pull out and replace ones fitted in older cars. So check all the functionality is working as it should be.

If there’s a sat nav device in there, check that works of course but be advised that the maps need updating and this can be costly, so find out when that was last done.

Go down under

Getting a look under the bonnet is one of the more obvious checks – look for any odd welding or oil leaks as a priority. But you should also get inside the car and look under the mats / carpets in the footwells. This can often hide a serious rust problem which can be bad enough to make you walk away from the purchase.

check remote lockingHow secure is it?

Does the car have an immobilizer? Many modern cars have them fitted as standard as part of the central locking system, so test the key. Does it work consistently and in addition to working remotely, does it work in the door? Is there a spare and does it work as well? Check the back doors as well.

Same goes for the boot if that works on the remote unlocking system – and that it opens without. Don’t overlook the petrol cap either.

Take someone with you

If you’re worried that you’re going to be kicking tyres aimlessly and staring at the engine, nodding sagely, take someone with you who has a bit of specialist knowledge, if you can. But even if you don’t know a master mechanic, it’s useful to have a spare pair of hands / eyes to look for any faults. They can also activate lights, indicators etc while you wander around the car checking everything works.

Ask the seller if your colleague can rev the engine hard and stand at the rear of the vehicle to watch out for any nasty smoke coming out – this could be a sign of too much oil being burned.

You also might need a trusted friend to ‘sense check’ if you’re getting giddy over an old wreck.

Take it for a drive

Always ask for a test drive and take it over some bumpy roads, listening out for any worrying noises. If you hear any bangs and clunks, it could mean something is hanging off like a wobbly exhaust.

If you have a friend with you, ask them to Sit in the back of the car to listen out for anything in that area and to check the condition in the back and the way the back doors function. If it’s a 3-door, check that the seats move forward properly.

Duffy Motors’ expertise

Why not take advantage of our experience and mechanical knowledge? Contact us if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to advise. If you’re in the market for new car, visit our cars section for peace of mind purchasing.

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