What you need to know about inspecting a used car

September 10, 2013 12:00 AM

Are you considering purchasing a used car? These pre-owned vehicles can represent a great value, but can be a risky investment if you don't do your homework before you buy. Prospective drivers have a lot of research to do prior to making a final decision, but there are a few key areas that require the bulk of your attention - and once you have these sections covered, you'll be better prepared to take the leap and make a purchase. 

Get the VIN
The first thing all shoppers should do is acquire the Vehicle Identification Number. Usually this number, which is actually made up of numerals and letters, is a 17-character code unique to an automobile. According to DMV.org, some of the best places to look for this signifier include the front of the engine block, on the driver-side door, underneath the spare tire or at the front of the car frame. If the VIN doesn't match the car's title, it could signal that it is stolen property. 

Give the car a once-over
There's a good chance that the first thing to capture your attention will be the exterior of the vehicle. Instead of glazing over the body work, keep an eye out for any discrepancies that may a sign of larger problems. For example, check for scratches or discolored paint or even a fresh coat, which may often be a sign that someone attempted to cover up rust or another issue. Also make sure the tires are all the same make and come from an established brand. The wear on these should also be even - if not, there may be issues with the auto alignment

Press buttons - all of them 
While the interior of a vehicle may look to be in good condition, you should go the extra mile to make sure every feature operates as it should. The auto air conditioning service, heating system, radio, wipers, emergency brake, power locks, windows and seat adjusters should all function as advertised. 

Ask a third party
At the end of the day, you may feel as if you're not ready to make the final decision on whether or not a vehicle is up to snuff. The good news is there are places you can turn to for help. One option is to run the VIN through a vehicle history check to see if the car has been involved in any accidents in the past and what the damage would have been. If you end up purchasing the vehicle, don't waste time and bring it to a reputable auto repair franchise. There a professional can take a long look at the ins and outs to ensure that everything is functioning as it should. 

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