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Trading in Your Used Car for New. Stay up to date on topics that impact you and your family. Become a Member.

Sign In. Remember Me. Not a member? Need further assistance? Please call Member Services at Join Consumer Reports. Already a member? Welcome to Consumer Reports. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed. Get Started. Used Car Buying Guide. Sharing is Nice Yes, send me a copy of this email.

Send We respect your privacy. Oops, we messed up. Try again later. Last Updated: June 26, Buying and Choosing a Used Car. View All. Focus on Reliability. Narrow your shopping list by targeting models known for reliability, a virtue that becomes more important as a car ages and falls out of warranty. Know the Value of the Vehicle.

Condition, mileage, age, equipment levels, and the region all affect vehicle value. Know the true value of your candidate car, regardless of what the seller is asking. Be Wary of Costly Add-Ons. Service contracts, glass etching, undercoating, and paint sealants are all unnecessary add-ons to help the dealership maximize its profits. Buying Used American Cars? Search by VIN. Button text.

Used car buying guide

Did you know? Thousands of used U. It's easy to check if your car is affected. Smart We offer you unique vehicle history to help you make better purchase decisions. Trust Trusted by millions of users. Worldwide market leader. Read more How to detect mileage rollback? Does it have a Full Service History?

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Check the vehicle's integrity If you wish to finance the car through WesBank, we can help you do a verification check on it using the digit Vehicle Identification Number VIN. Has it been in an accident? Inspect the car carefully, inside and out. Prepare before the inspection Before you go and look at a vehicle, make a checklist of things to remember so that you don't get distracted and miss something. First impressions Is the car clean and presentable or is the upholstery worn and dirty?

Checking the outside of the vehicle Check for cracks or chips in the windscreen and windows. Check that the car's contours are straight and the gaps between the body panels are consistent. Inconsistent paintwork is a possible sign of an accident, and if there seems to be fresh paint under the bonnet you should be suspicious. Check for signs of rust, and wear and tear on the tyres.

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  8. Check that the vehicle licence disc has not expired. Look for manufacturers' plates and original stickers. Inspecting the engine Check the car's bodywork in good light, perferably artificial light because bright sunlight can be too reflective.

    Car buyers guide: What to look for

    Check the battery terminals for build-up. Check for oil leaks. If there are droplets of clear liquid on the dipstick, it is a sign that the engine gasket is worn or leaking. Watch or listen to the engine while it is idling to check that it is running smoothly with no fluctuations.

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    Rev the engine to ensure there is no black or blue grey smoke coming from the exhaust, which could be a sign of an oil leak. Check for tampering on the engine number - it is a warning sign if the numbers are misaligned or look like they've been filed. Checking the inside of the vehicle The odometer reading should match the age of the car - if it is unusually low and there isn't a logical explanation, the reading could have been tampered with.

    Check that there is a spare tyre, along with a jack and spanner. Make sure that the seat belts are all working and are not damaged in any way.

    CARFAX Vehicle History Report for American Cars

    Check that the doors and their locks open and close properly. Check that all the windows work. Take a test drive This is the fun part, but remember to keep your emotions in check. Things to test: Check for warning lights on start-up. Test the handbrake. Do an emergency stop to test the brakes.

    Test the road handling by intentionally swerving from side to side on an empty road, of course! Test the engine by accelerating from a complete stop and from different speeds to ensure there are no dips or flat spots during acceleration.