A person buying a used car usually has a bunch of concerns about the purchase. It doesn't help matters that the used car industry has been so far unorganised, with the majority of sales still coming in through roadside car dealers who may or may not be reliable. Fortunately, there are ways of checking that the product you're getting is in good condition and if you know what to check you can protect yourself from unscrupulous dealers.
Seven keys points to consider before buying a second hand car:
1. Engine condition
Since it's the heart of the car, it should be in an immaculate condition. Anything that involves engine repairs could be extremely expensive. Therefore, making sure that everything is kosher with the engine is of paramount importance.
Making sure that everything is kosher with the engine is of paramount importance.
a. Engine oil: Check the engine oil condition (after running the engine for about 30 minutes). The colour should be ideally golden brown or reddish brown. Deep black colour indicates that the oil has not been changed for a long time. The engine oil level should be between 'Low' and 'High'.
b. Exhaust colour: In case of a petrol car, the exhaust smoke should have no colour if the car is in good condition. Any colour like deep blue, deep black or deep white points to different problems in case of petrol cars. Diesel cars emit dark smoke, which is considered OK, but it should not be deep black - that points to problems in case of diesel cars. Both engine types should have an exhaust that is dry; you can confirm this by putting your finger in the exhaust pipe.
c. Coolant: Reddish brown colour indicates that the rust inhibitor is no longer functioning. Generally a coolant should either be green or orange in colour.
d. Hoses and belts: Hoses and belts should be free from cracks and should have enough service life ahead of them. To verify that rubber hoses are in good condition, squeeze them and confirm that they are neither too hard nor soft or have any visual signs of cracks. To inspect the belts, check for the visual signs of cracks and pull them gently to confirm that they are not too slack, as they can cause slippage.
2. Exterior and Frame
Minor dents and scratches are nothing to worry about. Stay away from cars that have been in any major accident. Touch the car and paint to find if there have been any shoddy repairs done. Irregular body panel gaps, doors not opening or closing normally are indications that the car has had been in a shunt. Look at car from some distance too while someone else is driving and observe that both the rear wheels are following the individual front wheels in the same plane.
Look at car from some distance while someone else is driving and observe that both the rear wheels are following the individual front wheels in the same plane.
The car's underbody is subjected to water and dust. In fact, it has to bear the harshest conditions during the entire service period of the car. A rusted underbody could impact the car's load-bearing capacity and crash worthiness. Buyers should stay away from any car that has a rusted underbody.
4. Interiors and age
The interiors age according to the mileage of the car. If you feel the odometer has been tampered with, have a good look at the interiors, steering and driver's side door handle -- these reveal much more than the odometer. Another way of finding out the car's usage is to look at the car's boot. A car that has not been heavily used would have a boot and location where the spare wheel is mounted in an immaculate condition.
5. Electric and other equipment
Take notice of the music system, AC and other electrical equipment, like power windows, wipers etc.; they should all be working fine. To ascertain that the mechanics of the car are in perfect condition, take a comprehensive test drive of the car. Make sure to drive it on all kinds of surfaces to ascertain that the suspension and steering components do not have any part that needs to be replaced.
Have a good look at the interiors, steering and driver's side door handle -- these reveal much more than the odometer.
To ascertain that there's nothing wrong with the car's brakes, use the brake pedal to stop the car from moderate 20-25 kmph as well as high speed of about 80-90 kmph while travelling in a straight line. Make use of full braking force; the car should not pull to one direction. If it does, it indicates problems with wheel alignment and other severe problems. Buyers should stay away from such cars. In case, the car is equipped with the ABS, it would come to a smooth stop while a car that does not have it might skid before coming to stop. Observe proper precautions while conducting these tests.
7. Paper work
Make sure everything is in order. You must collect all documents starting from the seller -- Registration Certificate, Insurance, RTO forms 29 & 30, RTO forms 32 & 35, RTO forms 20, 27 & 28, dual fuel certification for retrofitted kit, road tax receipt and sale invoice. Ensure that there are no dues from traffic police and a NOC from the state police.
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