Don't buy a car in the rain, the bodywork always looks better when it's wet, plus, the chances are you will forget to check something by rushing to get out of the rain.
Stand at the front, or the back of the car, and look along the body line. You will be able to see if it has had any body damage as the light reflecting off the side of the car will show the dents or replaced panels.
Check around the window rubbers for over spray, a sure fire way to see if a car as been touched up.
Check the gaps between the panels to make sure they are even on both sides of the car. Bonnet to wing etc. This is a good indication as to whether the car has been in an accident and had panels replaced.
Take a fridge magnet with you and check the bodywork for filler. The magnet will stick to the metal, but will fall off if it meets body filler.
Have a look at the interior of the car, does the wear inside the car look in keeping with the mileage. If the car looks like its done 100,000 and the clock says 25,000, then you know its been round the clock, or even worse clocked. Check the steering wheel, and accelerator pedal rubber for excessive wear, the clutch and brake pedal rubbers can be replaced, but the accelerator pedal is a lot harder to change, and will give a truer indication of mileage.
Check underneath the car for any oil or water leaks, also check the floor where the car has been standing for the same.
Check the tires for uneven wear, if the tires are worn more on one side than the other its an indication that the car may have been in an accident and the chassis is twisted. It could also be the tracking or wheel balancing. Either way it's not a good sign.
Drive the car, (with the radio off) and check for any knocks or strange noises. Check the steering for vibration, or pulling to one side, its an indication again that the car may have been in an accident and the chassis is twisted. Make sure you drive the car in all gears to check the gearbox.
Try a 3 point turn in the car, that will check the reverse gear, and if you put the steering on full lock you will be able to check the wheel bearings and steering rack (your looking for clunking sounds or creaking).
When the engine is now hot check the oil, if it is milky there is water getting in somewhere, which could indicate a head gasket. (very Costly). The oil should be filled to between the 2 marks on the dipstick. If the oil is brand new beware, not many people will change the oil on a car the day before they sell it unless they are trying to hide something. Also check the water reservoir for signs of oil, not a good sign.
Last of all, check the paperwork. Make sure the registration document is in the sellers name. They may be a trader trying to pose as a private seller. Check the MOT to make sure its current. Check the service history to make sure it matches the vehicle being sold. Also you may want to check the engine and chassis number to see if it matches what is on the registration document. You will find that information on a small metal plate located under the bonnet. If the plate is missing be suspicious.
It's also a good idea to get the car HPI checked. This will tell you if the car has been stolen, been in an and accident, or is on finance. It costs around £40 but well worth it.
If you follow these rules when buying a used car you wont go far wrong. If you can't be bothered to go through the hassle, then buy your car from a trader, he or she will have already done all these checks to cover himself before he or she purchases the car. I would not buy a car without doing these checks first.
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