When thinking of buying a new, used car, do you know what to look for? Many people will look at the body of the car. Do they like the style? Is it cute enough for a daughter or manly for a son? Is the color appealing? Is there visible rust? Any dents?

If the car passes all the visual tests, they will listen to it run and ask for a test drive.

All these things are good to do, but let’s dig a little deeper.


The first thing I look at is the front end. I look at the nose and fender, nose and hood, hood and fender, fender and door. Are the spaces between each of these even? Do they match up with the other side of the car? Do they look like they have been removed and replaced? Doing this visual check lets me know if the car might have been in an accident. 

Next, I look inside the trunk. I look for any moisture in the carpet and check the spare tire area for wetness. This lets me know if there is a problem in the back end of the car. 

Then I look under the hood. Check the oil. It should be amber in color. If it is dark, I conclude the car hasn’t been cared for. Someone who wants to sell a car they care about will clean it and put fresh oil in it, so the car looks its best. Does the engine look greasy or dirty? Sometimes gaskets and seals will leak and cause the fluids to seep out. As you drive, dirt will collect in the watery fluids and be a dark, mucky-looking substance on the engine. 

When I get in the car, I look at the doors. Rust often starts on the inside bottom of the doors. Look for imperfections in the paint. Are there any areas that look bubbled or rough? This might mean there is rust that is being covered up by paint. 

A quick check of the tire tread is always a good idea. First, you’ll know if you need to get tires right away. More importantly, look for any uneven wear. Deeper issues might be a front-end alignment problem if the tread wears uneven.

My all-time favorite used car test is to sit in the driver’s seat and lookup. Are there any spots or stains on the fabric above your head? Is the console clean or sticky? What do the floors look like? Are there signs of a smoker? This tells me about the driver of the car and their habits. I have an idea about how the car was taken care of and driven based on these observations. 

When I find a car that passes my visual inspection, it is time to drive it. I take note of any noises, rattles, and quirks I notice. When I finish my test drive, my next step is to schedule a pre-purchase inspection by a licensed mechanic. 

As much as I think I know, there are any number of things I don’t know and can’t see from my vantage point. A pre-purchase inspection involves lifting the car to get a good look at everything you can expect to go wrong. The last thing you want to do is buy a money pit, and doing your research can make the difference between a money pit and a good used car purchase. 


Schedule your pre-purchase inspection today https://stroebelautomotive.com/request-appointment/


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