Buying a car is an exciting time for everyone. But with all the options you have when it comes to shopping for cars, it can easily become overwhelming. And if you’ve decided that you’re looking to purchase a used car, it can also become an intimidating and scary process, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. As you shop for used vehicles, you may even come across cars that have been previously involved in an accident, and that’s okay. As long as all the repairs were done properly, you shouldn’t have to worry and you might actually be able to find a great deal. We’ve compiled a list of 10 things you can do when shopping for a used vehicle:
- Carfax -
Carfax is a great way to learn about the history of the car you are looking at. The reports that you can purchase from their website will tell you a few things about the car that you will want to know before purchasing. Through the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), Carfax can pull up any reported accident history, money owed on the vehicle (lien check), unfixed safety recalls, vehicle status (clean/rebuilt), and if available, possibly a few maintenance records as well. The Carfax report will also show the origin of the vehicle as well as any other provinces it has been registered in. (Keep in mind that vehicles from the east coast tend to rust a bit more than vehicles from the west coast.)
- Gaps between panels -
When doing a walk around of the car, check the gaps between all panels. Run a finger between the gaps and make sure they look and feel even throughout. If you find areas where they are not even or levelled, the car may have had some work done in the past and was not properly put back together.
- Door test -
Similar to the previous step, check all the gaps at the doors to make sure that they all look and feel even and levelled. Open and close all the doors and check if there is a consistent feel to them. Open up the front doors to the widest position and ensure that they don’t come into contact with the front fenders.
- Body work -
Cars that have been involved in a previous accident and were repaired will usually have involved some plastic body fillers. Find out where the repairs occurred on the vehicle and check that the body work is straight and not wavy. If you look close enough you should not find any pinholes as well. Take a look at the car at different angles to get the best views to check for these imperfections.
- Paint -
Examine the paint of the vehicle and check for irregularities. As you do a walk around, check for any colour changes throughout the vehicle between panels. If there is a noticeable change in colour, this tells you that it was a poor paint match when it was repainted. Also, look carefully everywhere around the vehicle to check that you don’t find any “peeling” on the surface. Finding out whether or not the car was parked inside a garage or outside may reveal some information about the paint and look of the car as well.
- Service records -
Ask the owner of the vehicle for all service records if they have them. This is a great way to make sure that the vehicle has had up to date maintenance and that nothing major is coming up.
- Check all electrical-
Test all the windows, sunroof, mirrors, A/C, stereo/bluetooth, etc. and see if they are in good working order.
- Tires -
Find out how old the tires are or when they were changed last (date and/or KM’s). One easy way to check that the tread of your tires are still good is the penny (USD) test. Simply insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it's time to replace your tires. Also you may want to find out if there is a spare tire included with the vehicle or not.
- Check drivers license & registration -
Match the seller’s drivers licence to the registration of the car and beware of “curbers” to protect yourself. A curber is someone who pretends to be selling a vehicle privately, but is in the business of selling vehicles without a licence. Since they are not licensed, a buyer gets none of the legal protections that come with buying from a motor dealer licensed by the Vehicle Sales Authority of BC (VSA).
- Alignment, suspension noise, warped brake rotors, engine oil -
These are a few things that might be more difficult or complicated to check by yourself, so bringing a mechanic or friend who is knowledgeable in this area might be useful before your purchase as well.