Ten things you must do before buying a used car
Published 27/03/2014 | 10:37
Buying a second hand car is something we all will do at some point and for most it will be a really exciting time, but it can be fraught with danger.
Being ripped off or worse - shelling out for a motor that is poorly maintained or hazardous could leave you with more than a hole in your pocket.
But worry not, we have compiled a TOP 10 dos and don'ts.
1. AVOID the too good to be true ads - if its a couple of grand under the market value then something is wrong.
2. Always speak to the seller on the phone and pump them for as much information as possible.
Ask why they are selling the car?
How many previous owners?
How long have they had the car?
Where and when it was last serviced?
Does it have a full service history?
Has it ever been crashed/damaged or repaired?
Is there finance on the car?
Is the car NCT'd and taxed, if so how long left?
And finally what is their bottom price.
3. When viewing a car one should insist on seeing it at the seller's home address. Avoid meeting in car parks or at night time.
4. Verify the seller's identity.
Make sure that the name on the logbook corresponds with photo ID of the person you're dealing with.
5.Give yourself plenty of time for a full inspection starting with the vehicle's documentation(logbook/NCT/MOT/service history and general receipts).
6. Take an inch by inch walk around the car checking that every panel is straight and the paint work is in good condition. Stone chips are to be expected but dull or cracked paint is generally an indication of damage. Watch out for tell-tale signs like darker door sills or a fresher/brighter headlight.
7. Inside watch out for grubby or shabby interiors. Alarm bells go off if the seats are ripped or badly worn.
One of the biggest clues to a car's hidden history is the gear knob and the sock covering it.
If the numbers on the knob (1,2,3,4,5,6,R) have faded and there is a tear in the sock material and the clock is reading 40k - it's time to walk away.
The rubber covers on clutch and brake pedals if excessively worn also indicate high mileage.
8. Electronic check - again a bit of time needed here.
Press every single button inside the car.
Switch gear can be very expensive to replace and a favourite of NCT inspectors.
Open and close all the windows, turn on all the lights (dimmed/full/foglights) and have a companion to help. Try out the indicators, hazards, windscreen wash and wipers, (back and front) demisters, steering wheel mounted controls and horn.
9.Open and close every door, sit in the back and check the rear seat belts.
Make sure the child locks are in working order and the remote central locking is working properly.
Open the boot and run your hands around the edges of the carpet.
Dampness is a sign of previous damage either on the boot lid or the undercarriage and is a major no no.
Take out the spare wheel/jack/tools and ask if the car is fitted with locking wheel nuts.
If so a device like a special socket is needed to remove the wheels and you'll need it (I've been caught twice on this one).
Under the bonnet:
Firstly look for obvious signs of damage especially around the wheel arches and wings.
The engine bay should be clean and if the car is in between service intervals should have a light coating of dust on the plastic cover.
Look for the dipstick which is usually yellow and bring a couple of tissues.
Remove the dipstick and wipe the end clean.
Insert again to get a true reading.
Too little or too much oil is not good and is a sign that this car was not looked after.
Diesels will have slightly darker oil which is normal.
Coffee-coloured or brown-ish oil means water or moisture is getting into the engine meaning the head gasket is gone and you should be too.
Engine-wise the next biggest concern is the timing belt which needs to be replaced every 60-100,000 miles.
If this belt snaps the engine will seize costing a fortune to replace.
Depending on the model it could cost up to €500 to get done so you should factor this into the price.
10. Test drive. Most people make up their mind in the first 30 seconds.
Common sense is your best friend here.
Noise, knocks and shudders through the steering are all major causes for concern.
The problem could be major or simple wheel alignment or balance but it is a problem nonetheless and needs to be checked out by a mechanic.
Gear change and clutch bite are very important and can be an early indicator of wear.
Notchy movement or difficulty selecting certain gears especially third is not good news.
Watch for blue or black smoke on hard acceleration.
Steering should be firm and responsive and the car should continue to travel in a straight line for a few seconds without both hands on the wheel.
Braking should be precise and instant and without fade.
Check the handbrake is adjusted correctly (generally between three and four clicks) and when activated should prevent the car from moving off.
Finally go with your gut instinct - if for whatever reason you have a niggly doubt, just walk away and if need be, sleep on it.