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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Tornare

What to check on a used car?

Buying a car is always surrounded by uncertainty. Despite a test drive and a visual inspection, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the vehicle during the purchase process. So buying a used car can quickly turn into a nightmare. This guide will help you identify the important points to check to avoid such a situation.

Carequest car broker Switzerland, a person checks the tyres of a used car

Before buying a car, it is essential to inspect its condition on site. It is not recommended to buy a car without seeing it first. This is often where difficulties start.


To correctly assess the value and condition of a vehicle, it is important to check some general points and others specific to the model in question. This is a key step, as it can avoid catastrophic consequences.


This article helps you identify some key points to check before buying a used car.



Exterior

Bodywork

The bodywork is usually one of the elements that are systematically checked during the purchase of a vehicle. It is particularly important to consider the following points:

  • Alignment of parts, damage and signs of repair

  • Rust

  • Paint condition (scratches, colour differences, dents, etc.)

  • Glass elements (windscreen and wipers, windows and roof)

  • Lights (headlights, indicators, etc.)

It is also important to look underneath the vehicle. This is particularly useful to identify:

  • possible leaks of oil or other fluids (engine, brakes, suspension and transmission)

  • signs of an accident (bent or repaired parts, etc.)

  • rust

  • the general condition of the vehicle (suspension, exhaust, chassis, etc.)


Wheels

Wheels and tyres should also be verified. It is particularly important to ensure that these components, which are central to the safety of a vehicle, are in good condition and homologated. The following points need attention:

  • Wear (at least 4 mm of tread remaining) and age of tyres (less than 4 years old)

  • Wheel dimensions

  • Damage (punctures, cracks, holes, uneven wear, scratches, etc.)

  • Brakes (pads and discs)

  • Inspection of the 2nd set of wheels (if available)


Engine

The engine is the heart of the vehicle. Of course, it is no exception and must be checked. The points to be verified vary according to the powertrain. Typically, electric cars are of more simple construction and therefore have fewer mechanical components to check. For an internal combustion engine car, the following items should be looked at:

  • General condition (cleanliness, oil marks, etc.)

  • Temperature

  • Hoses and cables

  • Battery (corrosion and age)

  • Smoke and noise


Interior

Seats

The seat is a critical element of a vehicle's interior. It is the part we touch the most. For reasons of safety and comfort, the buyer should check all of them:

  • General condition (stains, smell, tears, damage, etc.)

  • Comfort (foam, adjustments, heater and ventilation, massages, noise, etc.)

  • Safety ( mounts, safety belts, upholstery, ISOFIX, etc.)


Dashboard

The dashboard serves as a means of entertainment but also shows a large amount of information. It is important to ensure that all functions work, but also that there are no signs of defects:

  • General condition (scratches, damage, dirt, etc.)

  • Entertainment system (functions, speed, damage, updates, etc.)

  • Instrument cluster (function, damage, warning lights, mileage, etc.)

  • Steering wheel (stability, adjustments, control operation, visual condition, etc.)

  • Other components (functioning, damage, etc.)


AC and heating

Heating and air-conditioning are nowadays part of the basic features of a car. However, it is important to ensure that they work properly, as faults can be costly and frustrating. The following points should be taken into account:

  • Airflow (smell and power)

  • Noise

  • Settings


Boot

The boot is an area prone to damage. The condition of this compartment can give information about how previous owners have cared for the vehicle. Particular attention should be paid to the following:

  • Increased damage (scratches, dents, etc.)

  • Moisture and rust

  • Upper part of the bumper (scratches)

  • Availability of moving parts (tools, tyre repair kit, breakdown triangle, parcel shelf, etc.)

  • Closing, opening and locking



Documents

Vehicle documents

The documents are essential to the vehicle and necessary for registration. If the following documents are not available, do not accept the vehicle:

  • Vehicle registration document and/or inspection report (matching chassis number, listing of modifications, date, etc.)

  • Homologation documents for modifications (wheels, suspensions, etc.)


Other documents

Most other documents can be ordered from dealers. However, this incurs a financial cost. In addition, the absence of these may raise doubts as to the accuracy of the information on the vehicle. Must be given with the vehicle:

  • Owner's manual

  • Service book (paper or digital)



Drive

Powertrain

A car must be able to move smoothly and steadily. However, over the years and with increasing mileage, some components central to the vehicle's propulsion may fail. Similarly, a lack of maintenance can cause premature wear. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that the powertrain is functioning properly:

  • Engine (starting, noise, power, temperature, smoke, etc.)

  • Transmission (gear changes, traction, noise, etc.)

  • Clutch (noise and wear)


Brakes

Conversely, a car must be able to stop. Brake control is essential to ensure the safety of the vehicle's occupants. The following elements should be taken into account

  • Brake pedal (sensitivity, vibration, deviation of trajectory, etc.)

  • ABS

  • Handbrake


Steering

The steering allows the vehicle to turn. A failure in the steering of a vehicle is a major impediment to passenger safety. The following may indicate a problem:

  • Vibration

  • Noise

  • Sensitivity and stiffness

  • Deviation of trajectory

  • Leakage


Suspension

The suspension is not only about comfort, but also about safety. By absorbing shocks from uneven ground, they increase the vehicle's grip. In turn, this improves the car's ability to turn, brake or accelerate. To be taken into account:

  • Fluid or air leaks

  • Increased vibration and noise

  • Lack of shock absorption

  • Lowering of the vehicle

  • Operation of air suspensions



Conclusion

This article aims to provide some keys to ensuring the good condition of a used car. However, checklists are of limited help. They explain what to look for, but do not say how to do it. This article is no exception to that rule. Thus, for many, the evaluation of a vehicle remains difficult. Identifying weaknesses and problems specific to the vehicle in question requires research and therefore time.


However, there is a simpler solution to avoid these problems: Carequest Sàrl.


Just tell us what you need, and we'll take care of the rest:

  • Research

  • Inspection of the vehicle on site (over 70 control points)

  • Negotiation of the purchase price and additional services

  • Service and inspection of the vehicle

  • Organisation of the trade-in of the old vehicle

  • Organisation of vehicle financing

  • Organisation of vehicle insurance

  • Registration of the vehicle

  • Delivery


Carequest is the easiest way to your dream car.


 

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