Whether you’re eyeing a shiny new car or an affordable used one, test driving and inspecting it is the one thing you should always do before signing on the dotted line. Yes, even if your cousin swears up and down that this is the “best car on the planet.” Every automobile is a machine that has its own characteristics, and you want to make sure it’s running in tip-top shape before driving off with it. Here are handy tips to keep in mind when checking out a car that you want to buy.
- Body and Under the Hood:
Check the body of the vehicle for any scratches or dents. Check under the vehicle for any leaks. Is there any rust? Check the wheel wells and under the trunk liner. Check all the glass, especially the windshield, for rock chips or cracks. Start the engine and rev it. Check for any weird sounds—especially a knocking sound. Look at the exhaust pipe and make sure there are no weird colors are coming out of it.
- Comfort and Interior:
Adjust the seat and mirrors. Do you fit in the car and is it comfortable? When you take it for a test drive, check to see if the seat supports you—even on harsher roads. Inspect the interior. Is it in good condition? If it has leather upholstery, are there any excessive wrinkles or discoloration? Check for any weird smells.
Pay attention to how long the car takes to start and the sound it makes. Are the “check engine” light or any vehicle warning indicators lit in the dashboard? Do the seatbelts function? Do all the lights work, including the turn signal lights? During the drive, check to see if you have a good view of the road and your surroundings. Does the car accelerate properly? Does it take excessive force to turn the wheel, especially at slower speeds? Do all the controls work, such as the windshield wipers and left and right turn signals? Drive uphill and check to see if the car is struggling more than usual. Do you feel safe driving the car?
How many of these things you look for depends on the age of the vehicle you’re inspecting, but you should take all the time necessary so that you feel confident and comfortable with your purchase. You can always ask if the seller is okay with taking the car to an independent mechanic to inspect it, but if you feel pressure from the seller, take that as a warning sign.
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By Yousef Abdul-Husain