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    Many people, especially when shopping within a budget, prefer buying a used car. While used cars can save money, checking specific things when shopping can help ensure the car meets your standards and performs according to safety standards. With a little expertise and a list of things to check, you can buy a used car that meets your needs without breaking the bank. A thorough check can also save you from facing costly repairs in the future.

    Body Condition

    One of the first things you notice when checking out a car is the exterior. This is perhaps one of the easiest parts of the vehicle to check as you can visually inspect each body panel, the roof and the fenders for scratches, dents and dings. You should also check to ensure the paint all matches and that there is very little rust, if any. While minor dents and dings are often inconsequential, rust can cause major problems later on. The same is true for any major dents or repair issues as this is often evidence that the vehicle has been in an accident. You should also open and close all doors, the boot and the bonnet to be sure they are in working order.

    Glass

    When checking the exterior, you should also inspect the glass to make sure it is free from cracks or nicks. Lights and lenses should also be free of cracks, moisture and fog. Broken or missing lights do more than just mar the appearance of a vehicle they pose safety issues.

    Interior

    Since you spend a lot of time on the interior, it is important to ensure the inside of the vehicle is free of odour and moisture. Sit in the vehicle and determine if you detect a mouldy or musty smell, which is indicative of water damage. You can also check under the mats or seats for visible water damage. The next step is checking the upholstery to see if it is free from large rips or stains. Trying the seat adjustments is also optimal as this lets you know if they are all in good working order. While sitting in the driver's seat, you should put the key into the ignition and turn the car on without starting the engine. This lets you check the instrument panel. It also lets you know if any of the warning lights are on. You should also turn on the heat and air conditioning.

    Under the Bonnet

    Checking under the bonnet is best when the car cools off to prevent burns or accidents. When checking under the bonnet, first glance around and look for oil spots, rust or liquid on the components. Check that the battery is free of corrosion. Feeling the hoses and belts to make sure they are free from cracks is also a good idea. After thoroughly checking with the car off, turn over the ignition and listen to the car run. Listen for any knocking or tapping sounds and check for any smoking under the bonnet. Also be aware of any smells. For example, if after the car is running you notice a sweet scent, this can indicate problems with the radiator or water pump.

    Fluids

    Checking the fluid closely can indicate issues if any exist. This is especially true for the oil as the colour can alert you of potential problems. Clean engine oil is dark brown in colour. Oil that has water in it, or that appears foamy can be a symptom of serious engine problems including a blown head gasket. If transmission fluid is not pinkish in colour, it also indicates a problem.

    Underneath

    While crawling under the vehicle may not seem appealing, it is important to ensure oil, coolant or transmission leaks do not exist. It can also give you an idea about the condition of the tyres, brakes and suspension system. Another way to check the suspension system is to crawl through the car and listen for any squeaks. Large dents or blemishes on the underside of a vehicle can indicate past accidents. The tyres should have a decent amount of tread left on them and they should all match size wise. They should also be rated for the exact make and model of car.

    Performance

    Even if everything appears to check out okay, test drive the vehicle. When driving the vehicle, pay close attention to the brakes as they should not squeak or grind at any time. Also watch the steering system to ensures it operates smoothly and does not drift to one side. You should also never hear a clunking or squealing noise when turning the wheel.

    Extras

    If features such as the stereo or navigation system are important to you, test the components out to verify they are in working order. Adjust the stereo to play on all speakers to find if one or more is blown.

    Buying a used car does not mean that you have to sacrifice safety, comfort or dependability. By checking the car over top to bottom, you can save yourself from surprises down the road. Even if you lack mechanical skills, there are many problems you can recognise by just performing a thorough check before making the purchase.

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