This article is a simple check-list for ladies who are in the market buying a used car. It will point out a few common areas of wear in a vehicle that can easily be analysed by an untrained eye. Topics will cover; under the hood; hidden rust areas; what the motor should sound like and finally, negotiating a good price. Having some knowledge of vehicles will increase confidence in the market and empower negotiating a good price.

What to look for under the hood

Before you start the engine you should always check the oil dip-stick to see what colour the oil is. This will give a good indication on the health of the vehicle. If the oil is black or no oil at all, it’s a good sign it’s been stationary for a time or it hasn’t been serviced for a while. Check any service papers for dates of an oil change or maintenance carried out.

When you take the car for a test drive run it for at least 20-30mins. Some cars that overheat will not give any signs till after this time period, so take your time or go for a longer test drive to eliminate this possibility. After the time is up check under the hood for a large rubber hose connected from the motor to the radiator and give it a squeeze. If it’s too hot to hold and the temperature gauge behind the steering wheel is moving up and down, it’s a good chance the vehicle has some problems.

Checking oil colour

Checking the colour of the oil

Hidden rust areas

Besides the obvious areas of rust protruding on the outside of a vehicle, a common area most people miss when checking for rust, is underneath the spare tyre. In most cases sedans, station wagons or any car that is likely to hold a spare wheel inside the boot. When it rains water can sneak past the rubber joints and create a well of water in the wheel housing that in time leaves a large rust area in the shape of half a wheel. A very costly fix if not checked in its early stages.

Also check under the car (if you can) to look for any rust in the muffler and exhaust. You can usually tell a hole in the muffler or exhaust when a loud rhythm popping noise that can deafen coming directly under the vehicle.

What the motor should sound like

A good motor should sound like a smooth humming with a consistent wave of small beats without any interruptions. Any whistling, banging, ticking, idling and shaking badly in a vehicle will definitely need to be looked at by a mechanic before you make a decision to buy.

Sometimes the most common idling problems can come from a bad battery or alternator, especially if it sounds sluggish on start-up. Try using a fully charged battery to test this out. This could make all the difference to achieving a healthy sound to the car.

Negotiate a good price

This is the best part about buying a used car and it’s a good idea to leave this till after checking it. Taking a mental note of all the possible imperfections in the vehicle will empower you to negotiate the price. Go ahead, throw a figure out there. If rapport is established with the seller then take all the time to haggle a fair price (without offending). Bring into consideration all the defects found to justify your offer.

Good luck and happy buying!

Checking the hose

Checking the hose for overheating