used car buying tips

How to Make Sure a Used Car is Worth Buying

You must be on your guard if you’re thinking of buying a used car. People often sell second-hand vehicles because they aren’t in good working order, and you don’t want to waste your money on a duff automobile. Here’s how to ensure you don’t make a mistake.

Check under the hood

Serious trouble may dwell under the hood, so check there first. You might spot a little grime and oil, but too much dirt can indicate the car hasn’t been well-maintained. Damp and a greasy residue, for instance, may be signs of a coolant, engine, or transmission leakage.

Note whether anything’s broken or out of place. Belts and hoses shouldn’t be cracked and battery terminals should not show signs of corrosion or leakage. If the battery is properly charged, it should show 12.45 volts or more when checked with a digital multimeter.

Look at the air filter too and make sure it’s clean and check the color of the oil on the dipstick. It shouldn’t be milky or black.


Most cars need their belts and hoses replaced after about 80,000 miles, so consider them when viewing the mileage. When you look at the odometer, ensure the numbers are in line. If they aren’t, someone might have changed them.

Also, does the condition of the car match the mileage shown? A well-worn interior, yet low mileage could signal foul play. You should expect the interior to look fairly new if the miles traveled are accurate.

General checks

Other functions to check include signal lights, headlights, and brake lights. At the same time, try the wipers, horn, and washers to see that they work properly.

Inspect the car fluids to check they are full and haven’t leaked, and inspect the tires for wear. If they don’t have good tread, they’ll need replacing and you must take this into account when deciding whether the price of the vehicle is fair.

Vehicle body

Bubbling beneath the paintwork on the car exterior and signs of rust are bad news. Surface blisters aren’t terrible, but corrosion within the bumpers, panels, doors and wheel arches is a cause for concern.

Note paintwork discoloration and ripples as you examine the car. They could indicate damage that’s been covered. Look at the sunroof, window seals, and beneath carpets for signs of leaks too.

Take a test drive

If you’re insured to drive the vehicle, take a multifaceted route that includes busy roads and quiet lanes so you can experience driving in varied conditions.

Note odd noises. Rattles and bangs when you switch on the ignition are questionable. Also, is the steering smooth? Is the engine’s temperature normal and do the breaks function properly?

Before you make an offer

Check the vehicle registration documents to ensure they are in order. The service receipt data, for example, should match the mileage you noted earlier.

If the paperwork is accurate, you enjoy driving the car, and it’s worth more than the cost of fixing up your current vehicle, if you have one, make an offer corresponding with the used car’s going rate.

Buying a used car isn’t easy unless you recognize what to look for and the right questions to ask. Note the tips mentioned and you’ll know whether a vehicle’s worth buying or it’s time to move on and look elsewhere.