Things to check before buying a second hand car :- Buying a car is a big investment. Going through the second-hand market makes it possible to acquire a vehicle less expensive than if you decide to buy it new, while getting a good deal, on the condition, however, that you check the key points of the car before buying it. ‘buy. Here is a non-exhaustive list of 10 important points to check for a smooth transaction.
1. Check car maintenance
The first point to pay attention to is the history of the car, that is, the follow-up that has been done on the car and the overhauls that have been carried out. For this, rely on the invoices and stamps in the maintenance book . If the owner has neither, that’s not a very good sign. Also check the origin of the car, if it is a French car or an import car (a car from Germany or Spain for example).
An up- to-date technical inspection for the sale is good proof that the seller is ready to sell, but it cannot replace maintenance invoices, it is only a report stating that the car meets the conditions necessary for its traffic on the road!
In addition, each brand has its specificities, so remember to check in advance those of the vehicle you want. For example, at Audi, a Long Life service is suggested every 30,000 km or every 2 years if the 30,000 km are not reached.
The same is true for the various brands of the Volkswagen group (VW, Skoda, Seat, etc.). Check the maintenance intervals if you want to buy a vehicle from another brand (Citroën, Peugeot, BMW, Mini, Opel, Nissan, etc.). There is also a difference in periodicity between a gasoline car and a diesel car.
You can also perform intermediate maintenance (oil change and checks) to check that everything is up to date and that there are no parts to change. If the seller has carried out his maintenance himself you have no guarantee on the operation carried out and the parts used may be of an inferior quality than those of a dealer or a mechanic.
Parts invoices may be reassuring but will not tell you the skills of the person who did the maintenance. See if the seller has prepared his sale: if he has already prepared a certificate of transfer or a certificate of non-pledge it is because he really wants to sell and these are good points.
2. Observe the condition of the consumables
Be sure to ask for invoices for changed parts and consumables. This will allow you to have an idea of what to expect (change of the timing kit, brake pads and discs, tires, etc.) and therefore additional costs to be expected in the following year. purchase.
You should know that some parts such as the timing belt must be changed after a certain number of years or kilometers (variable according to the models and manufacturers) and that the cost of this operation can be high (up to € 1,000 for premium brands). Use these observations on the condition of the auto you are targeting to adjust the price to the buyer.
If you don’t know how to assess the wear and tear of consumables, you can take a look at our in-depth articles on brake pads and tires .
3. Exclude damaged cars
Make sure that the car you want to buy has not been in an accident. If in the invoices that the seller shows you you note changes to the headlights, windshields, or body parts, this should make you vigilant.
Of course, these elements could have been changed for other reasons, but they are the most affected during a shock. Also check the alignment of the body parts.
Parts changes can be due to a minor shock such as a slight collision, but it can also be due to a more serious accident during which certain mechanical parts of the car, or the chassis could be affected. You should know that a damaged car ages less well than an ordinary car and will be much more difficult to sell.
4. Confirm the serial numbers of the car
An “administrative” point to check is the vehicle serial number. It is written on the registration document, on the label located on one of the front doors of the car, as well as stamped on the chassis.
These 3 numbers must be the same, otherwise, it indicates a stolen car – and you don’t want to buy a stolen car a priori! it is very important that the car you have in front of you corresponds to what is written on the registration certificate.
5. Judge the condition of the bodywork
The body should be looked at carefully, even if the condition of it is not the most important element. If the exterior is slightly scratched or dented, the mechanical condition of the vehicle is generally not affected. The aesthetic side of the car is not essential but allows to observe if the owner takes care of his car.
For example, if there is a little foam on the window seals it often means that the car is sleeping outside and not in a garage. A car that sits indoors will generally look cooler. Door “pocs” and damaged bumpers indicate very urban use. We can find on cars which have made the road or the motorway more marked gravel marks on the front face.
We must also compare the number of faults noted with the age of the vehicle. Don’t expect the same condition from a 7 year old car and a 3 year old car.
On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the cost of repairing a scratch or a dent are not the same depending on the car and must be subject to a discount accordingly (this is less serious on a small Renault Twingo than on a big BMW 3 Series or a Mercedes Class A!).
The bodywork is also used to note an accident that would not have been mentioned by the seller: if you observe doors that are not properly aligned, a trunk that does not close without forcing or other, beware, the car has maybe been damaged!
6. Know the causes of certain anomalies
The best example to explain this point concerns tires! Do not forget to check their wear in depth but also their respective wear: it is necessary to have identical wear for the two front tires and the two rear tires. Uneven wear at the front or at the rear can have several causes, for example a defect in parallelism.
Likewise, bouncy suspensions can signal an imminent replacement, as can a snappy gearbox or a slipping clutch, signs of tired parts. These are therefore possible costs that are added to carry out the restoration.
Also inspect the brake pads and discs for wear.
7. Hunt for modifications
Check that the car is original. It is important not to go for a modified or “tuned” car , so no tampered with engine or questionable modifications! Having an original car is essential to avoid insurance problems, warranty denial and latent defects.
For example, if you notice that the rims are not original, find out what the owner has changed on the car. Modified rims may just reflect a desire on the part of the owner to modify the exterior appearance of the car, without modifying the whole car. Ask him what prompted him to do it (fitting winter tires, wanting a change, look…), it will give you good information. Also pay attention to cars that have undergone engine preparations (exhaust, intake, reprogramming, turbo, etc.). If you are interested in a car of this type, be sure of the seriousness of the preparation and buy knowingly if necessary.
8. Make the inside talk
Another point to consider is the interior condition of the car. The presence of stains or even signs of wear on the seats gives information about the car: this can be useful to us to know if the car has been well maintained, or if, on the contrary, it has received unfavourable treatment.
The condition of the interior will have an impact on the resale price just like the condition of the exterior. A task on a chair may disturb some but will not pose a problem for others. If you visit a car with low mileage but whose interior appears worn (marked seats, steering wheel, gear lever) be careful, the displayed mileage may not match the mileage of the car.
If upon viewing the interior it seems to you that the mileage information does not match the typical wear and tear of a car of that mileage, go your way or ask about the car’s past.
This remains to be qualified of course because from 50,000 km, the rubber of the pedals is a little worn, like the floor mats for example. For their part, our inspectors know how to decipher all these signals during the in-depth inspection they perform.
9. Take a test drive to validate the car.
Taking a test drive (at least 15 minutes) is the best way to verify that there are no strange noises, that the handling is good. The gears should shift smoothly, the clutch should have normal resistance, and you shouldn’t feel any suspicious vibrations.
If during your test, a light comes on, push the analysis further. Sometimes this can cover up with a minor flaw, but one that will put you in a strong position to negotiate. Make sure everything is working, the turn signals and headlights are in working order, as are the windshield wipers, power windows, air conditioning, gps or car radio.
You can also check the condition and tightness of the soft top or sunroof if the vehicle you are looking for has one.
10. Don’t worry, open the hood!
Checking certain mechanical points is essential. After the road test, open the hood to check that there are no unusual odors (oil, coolant, etc.). Remember to check that there is no trace of oil on the engine, this results in dust and a greasy surface.
You can also check that there are no oil leaks, they are easily noticed since after a few hours of parking, a stain forms under the car.
Check the levels you can visually control, if they are good it means the buyer seems to be doing them, if they are low it shows average attention.
Also check that the engine guards are present under the car, or even that the underpinnings are not rusted if you can.
11. And much more!
10 points are obviously not enough but will give you a first idea of the car in front of you! As inspection is often difficult when you do not know it, you can also trust a professional to buy your used car with confidence.