The most important things when buying a used car are the inspection and test drive. This is the only way to find out whether the car lives up to the advert. We will tell you which ten points you should pay particular attention to when you visit the site.
1 – Not alone at the viewing appointment
As a specialist is not always available, you should also bring a second person with you to the viewing appointment. The old wisdom that four eyes see more than two proves true again and again. A professional test plan is also a good help to check off.
2 – Check submitted papers thoroughly
If the workshop invoices, HU reports or the checkbook are missing, this is not a good start. This also applies if the documentation is available but incomplete. This indicates that the maintenance of the car has been neglected. In the worst case, the true mileage should be hidden because the speedometer reading is manipulated.
3 – Uncovering speedometr trickery
The customer can detect manipulations if he knows how to interpret the signs: Does the stated mileage match the overall impression of the car? If it appears too low, a look inside can provide clues. If the seats are badly worn and worn out, the pedals are badly worn and the steering wheel looks worn, skepticism is in order for a car with about 100,000 kilometers on the clock. You should also look for old dealer stickers in the car; a call to the dealership can give a lot of information about the car’s history. Even oil change labels with the mileage in the engine compartment can reveal a speedometer manipulation.
4 – Maintenance backlog and defects reveal
Brittle or porous cables or hoses in the engine compartment are evidence of poor maintenance. If oil and water levels are also not correct, this is a further indication that the previous owner was not very keen on maintenance and care. What’s more, too low fluid levels can also indicate engine defects. And if, at the start of the inspection, you find that the engine is already warm, it is very likely that something is being concealed. Some unhealthy noises are only noticeable when the engine is cold. Also pay attention to the tyres, which can also reveal a lot about the condition of the car. This does not only refer to the tread depth, which can be easily checked with a one-euro coin – if you can still see the golden edge, the tyre is close to its wear limit and will have to be replaced soon. The tyre tread also tells you something about the condition of the chassis. If especially the inner or outer shoulders of the tyres show heavy wear, the chassis geometry is no longer correct. If the tread blocks are not worn evenly all around, this usually indicates defective wheel bearings, shock absorbers or axle suspensions.
5 – Detecting rust with simple means
If the vehicle is not washed, you should be careful. After all, rust spots, dents or damage to the paintwork are more difficult to detect. Especially the search for rust can prove to be difficult – especially in the dark, so only inspect during the day. A tip: If the interior smells musty or the flooring is damp, this is evidence of bodywork leaks – corrosion damage can no longer be ruled out.
6 – Detecting accident damage
Even technical laymen can find out about accidental damage with a few tricks. Different gap dimensions on doors, fenders and tailgate can be an indication of this. Furthermore, a magnet can be used to detect improper repairs – if it has been filled, it won’t hold. Afterwards, the paint deserves a closer look: are there blunt spots, is there so-called orange peel skin, are there paint runners or are there even differences in colour? These are all signs of accident damage – just like paint and spray mist on adjacent rubber and plastic parts.
7 – Insist on a test drive
The test drive provides the last clarity about the condition of the car. You should insist on this. The engine has to start without any problems – that’s another reason why it is important that the unit is cold when you start the inspection. In addition, the engine must not run lumpy or respond poorly to gas commands. If cracking noises can be heard when turning off at the intersection during full steering angle, this indicates faulty drive shafts or wheel bearings. If the car does not keep to the track, the chassis geometry is not correct. If the transmission makes noise when shifting gears, that too is an alarm signal – not to mention if it is not easy to operate. If the braking power is weak, if the car pulls to one side when stopping, or if after the test drive the rim is so hot that you can hardly touch it – then there are also defects. The basic rule for test drives is: take your time, find roads with little traffic and drive out of town – certain defects only become apparent at higher speeds or engine rpm. Then check under the bonnet to make sure that the unit is not leaking in one place.
8 – If in doubt, consult a professional
If there are any doubts after the initial inspection, you should take the car to a workshop or testing organisation. Take DEKRA as an example: there an expert will take a look at the body, technology and electronic systems. After passing the test, the car is given a used car quality seal. Cost: around 130 euros. Similar offers are available from ADAC, TÜV or independent workshop chains. Advantage: the experts know the problem areas of many models from their everyday testing and service work and know where to look.
9 – The warranty trick – don’t fall for it!
Private sellers can exclude the warranty in the purchase contract – a dealer cannot. If the car is to be sold on behalf of the previous owner or as a hobby vehicle, there is reason to suspect that the dealer wants to avoid the warranty. After all, companies must be liable for material defects within a period of one year after the sale of a used car.
10 – Are owner and seller the same person?
In the case of private sales, make sure that the registered owner and the seller are the same person. If the data are not correct, the car may have been stolen. In this case, ask for the power of attorney of the actual owner. If you want to rule out forged papers, it is best to go with the seller to the registration office to re-register the car. The authority checks the documents, forgeries should be noticed quickly.