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Buying A Used Car


When buying a used car the tendency is to look at cars of the same year, make, model and mileage and compare price. Although this criteria is relevant and perhaps a good start, there is a lot more to consider when buying a used vehicle. Some people consider their cars to be merely a mode of transportation, a tool to get from “A to B”. While others take great pride in ownership and tend to maintain their vehicles regularly and keep them clean & free of scratches, dings and other signs of wear. These cars are far more desirable and will always command a higher price at resale. In general they will also give you more years of trouble free service and a sense of confidence and security that they won’t breakdown at an inopportune time. History reports will alert you to reported accidents, water damage, theft recovery etc., but only if they have been reported to Police or an Insurance company. However there are a lot of unreported cases on an all too frequent basis. Fortunately cars do tell a tale when carefully inspected.  A well maintained car is evident if you know what signs to look for. Unfortunately a professional grade inspection cannot be completed without a hoist and some intensive training, but here are some of the things to look for when inspecting a used vehicle.

  • Do the body panels line up? Are the gaps between panels equal? Unequal gaps usually are an indication of an accident.
  • Orange peel – When cars are originally painted, they have a bit of a texture known as orange peel. When panels are re-sprayed the orange peel will be different.

  • Paint oxidation – cars that have seldom been waxed will have paint oxidation and will have less shine and will be rough when you attempt to glide the back of your hand over the paint.

  • Gouged interior panels, steering wheels and door pulls are indicative of previous owners opening doors with keys in hand, or damaging the interior with jewellery. Indicating a general indifference to the overall vehicle appearance and condition. 
  • Sloppy ignition – Owners that have large bunches of keys dangling from the ignition damage the surrounding area and prematurely wear out the key barrel.

  • Odometer accuracy – Look at the wear & tear on the steering, driver’s seat, and brake pedal and check if it is consistent with the indicated mileage.
  • Regular oil changes – open oil filler cap and check inside cap for oil sludge, run finger around rim of valve cover, again checking for sludge. Sludge indicates infrequent oil changes. At the same time make sure there are no milky streaks in oil- this is evident in cars with failed head gaskets.

  • Tires – make sure all tires are the same brand, and model. Cars with different tires generally reflect a minimalistic approach to vehicle maintenance. Check for even tire wear. Uneven tire wear is a symptom of alignment or other suspension problems.

  • Curb rash on rims – Gouged rims are unsightly and are typical of vehicle owners who park carelessly and are indifferent to the condition of their vehicles.

  • Clean engine bay – An engine that is shampooed periodically will run cooler and typically will be free of dirt and grime, additionally leaks would be more visible and easier to locate.

  • Research Vehicle online – Thanks to Google, it is easy to check for problems that specific models are prone to i.e. rust areas, electronic gremlins, transmission problems etc.

  • Automatic transmission – While brake is being applied, select drive & reverse, and listen for a clunk when gear is engaging. Again while brake is depressed, accelerate a little and check whether vehicle is trying to move or whether slip is detected. During test drive, see whether gears appear to be shifting smoothly or whether they seem to be shifting late or with abruptness.

  • Alignment, when driving on a flat surface, with little or no crown, does the car pull to the left or right. A car that pulls either has low tire pressure in one or more tires, or requires toe adjustment, or worse case has a structural issue.
  • Bump Steer – If the car suddenly changes direction when it hits a bump or falls into a pot hole it is usually in need of a camber adjustment or has a bent suspension component.
The list goes on and on, but these are some of the basic things to be aware of when buying a used vehicle. If these are not areas you wish to concern yourself with or care to learn more about, feel free to contact Icon Autosport and put our in depth knowledge and expertise to work for you.