How to avoid buying a bad used car

How to avoid buying a bad used car. Used car buyers are always worried about buying a bad car. But luckily cars have never been better build or more reliable than they are today, greatly reducing the chances of buying a bad car. But there are still lots of things to check before agreeing to buy a car. Below we will cover everything you need to know to avoid buying a bad car.

No matter who you are buying a car from you always need to inspect a car thoroughly. Luckily this isn’t complicated or time consuming but there are a few thing you need to check. Following the simple system below will help you detect most problems before you commit to buying a car.

Inspecting a car

Staring with the exterior inspection its best to start at the front or rear of the car, and kneel down and look along the sides. This technique allows you to see any panel damage more easily. Check the body for scratches, dents, and rust. Also examine the panel shut lines, these should be uniform across the car and an equal size on both sides of the car. Small golfball dents and light scratches are no cause for concern, a painless dent removal expert can remove small dents easily.

However any rust is going to require a bodyshop and is best avoided. ​The paint finish should be the same on every body panel. If you suspect the car has been repainted, the best way to check is by looking for a paint edge in door shut. Small golfball dents and light scratches are no cause for concern, a painless dent removal expert can remove small dents easily.

Once you are happy with the bodywork take a good look at the windscreen. A small stone chip is no cause for alarm, but anything more may require a new screen. Pay special attention to the drivers side as some chips are an MOT failure.

Next you need to look at the wheels and tyres. Small marks on the alloys are executable but heavy curbing isn’t. Alloy wheels make inspect the condition of the brakes easy too. Just look through the wheel and make sure the pads have plenty of life left in them and that the discs don’t have a huge lip on the outer edge.​

You also can tell a lot about a car or the person selling it from the tyres. If an owner has fitted cheap tyres they have probably not spent the money needed elsewhere. It’s easy to inspect the tread but also look for pavement scuffs cracks and bulges in the sidewalls. You can also check the age of tyres as all modern tyres are now date stamped.

Now onto the cars Interior. When you first open the door you need to think about the smell. If it smells of smoke, mould, or anything unpleasant walk away. Smells may lessen over time but general they are hard to eradicate in cars. Next look at the driver and passenger seats for ware, a ripped or badly worn can be repaired but you are best just looking for a better example. Also check the headliner for stains, sagging and possible water leaks.

It’s at this point that I switch the ignition switch on and check everything electrical is working. Check every switch, button and window. If the car has satellite navigation the make sure it’s working and that the disc is precent and up to date. This is also a good time to check all the books and service history with the car.

Make sure the car has been serviced regularly. But don’t get too hung up on a car needing a complete set of history. Lots of recent work is much more important that a few franchised dealer stamps from when the car was new.

Now start the engine and listen for any usual noises on start up that you may want to mention to a mechanic later. Loud ticks rattles and tap that don’t immediately disappear may be an indication of an issue. It’s alway worth keeping an eye on any smoke from the exhaust if the cars cold, but in truth most modern cars don’t burn oil these days. This is also the time you need to lookout for warning lights on the dash, every warning light should turn itself out after a few seconds.

Then with the engine still running switch on the air conditioning and make sure it blows cold. Air conditioning problems can be very expensive and time consuming to fix. Lastly look in the trunk or boot area lifting the the carpet and checking the spare (if equipped) and tools are all in good condition and present. Orange rust marks or corrosion my be an indicator or water ingress from a faulty seal.

That’s it for the body and interior, now its time to open the bonnet to hood to inspect the engine. In most instances a good layer of dirt and dust is normally a good sign as a spotless recently pressure cleaned engine bay can be hiding something. So take extra caution when an engine bay is spotlessly clean.

Start by look for oil leaks and spills or anything that looks out of place. Next check the dipstick for oil, do the same with the gearbox if possible. Then move on to the engine coolant, power steering and brake fluid levels. Inspect all hoses and belts for cracks and wear.

The next step is to test drive the car. You should ideally drive the car at normal speeds in both slow and fast moving traffic. Listening for and knocks or bumps from the drivetrain. Listen for any strange sounds from the engine or transmission.

Get a mechanic to inspect the car

Once you have carried out all the steps above and think the car is for you it’s time to get the car inspected by a mechanic. It’s import you use a mechanic or garage that is independent and doesn’t sell new or used cars. This is important to make sure you get a genuine independent option and avoid any conflicts of interest.

The inspection should cover the condition of both the cars general and the mechanical components and double checking everything. This is the time you should bring up any concerns you may have and put any questions to the mechanic.

A professional independent inspection is worth carrying on a car of any age. Not only can it can help you avoid any chance of you buying a bad car, but it can help form the basis of any potential claim in the future.

Carry out a HPI check

A HPI check car be carried out using a car registration or VIN number. The check looks a cars history to see if it has ever been involved in a crash or accident, it also tells you if a car has outstanding finance. It’s important that you carryout a check on any used car you are looking to purchase but it’s especially important on older cars.


There are lots of bad cars out there and it’s import that you follow the advice above. At the very least you should get a car inspected by an independent expert and carrying out a HPI is an essential. You should also use the internet to research potential problem with the model you have chosen. Bad cars are easily avoided if you follow these steps.