Wednesday, March 27, 2013

17 Things to Check Before Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is a nerve-wracking experience for many people. There's an ever-present fear that a used car will be a lemon, costing hundreds or thousands in unexpected maintenance. Much of this stress can be dealt with by following a simple checklist when shopping for a new used car.

1. Tires: Look for worn tread and flat spots. All tires should be the same size and brand.

2. Body: Check that all body panels are the same color, and free of rust and other serious imperfections. Also, check that the seams between panels are aligned properly. Body work usually means there's a significant accident in the vehicle's past. You can run a magnet over the exterior to test that there are no plastic replacement pieces.

3. Windshields: Check for cracks and impacts. Make sure that the windows roll up and down without leaving gaps.

4. Lights: Test all the headlights, brake lights, hazard lights and turn signals.

5. Fluids: Look underneath the car for leaks. Check the oil and coolant levels. Ask to see the oil change history for the life of the vehicle.

6. Engine: Listen to the sound of the motor. Chugging and knocking may mean the engine is out of tune. A smoothly running engine should produce no odors.

7. Battery: Check for corrosion on the terminals. Check the age of the battery.

8. Exhaust: Blue or black exhaust indicates trouble with the engine.

9. Suspension: Push down on each corner of the car. There should be no squeaking. The resistance should be the same at each corner, and the car should rest level.

10. Seats: Look for stains and cracks.

11. Interior: Check for odors, stains, rips and tears -- everywhere in the vehicle.

12. Trunk: Make sure the trunk opens and closes freely. If there's a trunk light, make sure that it turns off and on as it should.

13. Doors: Test every door for easy opening and closing.

14. Safety Features: Test every seat belt. If the car has airbags, be sure than none have been previously deployed (making them useless).

15. Transmission: Gears shift smoothly. In an automatic, gears shift at the appropriate RPM.

16. Steering: Check that the vehicle goes straight when the steering wheel is straight. If the car has power steering, there should be only minor resistance in the wheel.

17. Brakes: Car stops smoothly without pulling to one side or the other. Brakes do not squeak or chatter. Stop on a slope and check that the parking brake works as expected.

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