So you’ve decided to buy a second hand car. Your either passing off your old troubled car or you decided that you need a change. We were sort of in the first category of purchaser. Our car had stopped working intermittently. After trawling the internet we found a car website that offered to buy our car from us for £400. All we had to do was make sure it drove to the garage and started on a basic inspection. It did and we sold it. Our troubles had been passed on to the next owner. However, not all used cars are mobile scrap.
Here is a brief list of areas to be aware of when buying a “new” old car. Remember that you know nothing about it’s history and just like in my case you could be buying someone else’s troubled scrap pile.
Check the history of the car. A simple web search will give you a list of companies that will give you basic history information for free or detailed history for a small charge. This charge may be the difference between buying an over priced car, buying a stolen car or an absolute bargain. It is the purchaser’s responsibility to do check the history of the car, the seller doesn’t have to tell you. If the vehicle is stolen you may have it taken from you with no refund.
Get a mechanic to have a quick look over the car. This one sounds like an over the top step, but they will know what goes wrong with the car your looking at better than you. For example a Ford exhaust system may be a cheap replacement, while a Jaguar Exhaust may turn the deal into a dilemma.
Check for oil and fluid leakages. If your inspecting a private car for sale. Have a look on the owners drive. Do they have oil or diesel patches on the block paving? Fluid leakages aren’t the end of the world, but it is a negotiating point and knowledge is power in car dealing. Remember that cars like the Mini used to roll off the production line with an oil leak.
Has there been any accident damage? The owner may not know if they bought it second hand. One tip is to check the gaps along the door edges. Are they parallel? If the car had been in an accident (that was noteworthy) door gaps and spaces would be pushed out of position. So this is a good clue. Look in the engine bay and boot for any major repair work. If it has been repaired you want to make sure it was done properly and by a professional. A bodged job will show up with sloppy welding and patched up paintwork.
Dents and scratches will also show up on a body work inspection. Again this isn’t the end of the world a few dents on a door panel doesn’t stop the car from being safe. Although a few scratches and bumps will give you a great oportunity to knock the asking price down.
When test driving the car, try and experience lots of different conditions. Driving fast on a straight road is great, but won’t show up any creaking joints that will rear up on a slower bumpy drive. How does the engine sound. Even if your not a trained mechanic you will know if it doesn’t sound right. Is it tinny or does it rattle? Does it sound like a sewing machine? Turn off the air blower fan to highlight all the noises of the car.
Test all the electrics, lights, horn and fan. The air blower fan is a common fault on cars. They can lose connection on one setting and keep working on the other ones. Again not the end of the world, but will cost you to get repaired. While the engine is running lift up the bonnet and listen for hissing. If it is hissing you have a crack or leak somewhere. A cracked fuel injector could set you back a fair piece.
Remember that you are not committed to buying the first car you inspect. Make sure everything is correct and stacks up. Only when your happy should you start negotiating on the price. Even then you can still walk away from the deal and sometimes this is the best option. There are plenty more vehicles out there that meet your requirements. You can always start again.