- The kilometers
Looking at the seats, the dashboard, the floor, the buttons and the upholstery does the wear on these things match the kilometer reading? Low kilometers and a worn out interior should serve as a sign for concern.
- The tires
Take a look at the tread and make sure there is no shine and ‘bolding’. Also, run your hands over the sides and if the tire has uneven wear and tear then there is an alignment issue.
- The steering wheel
It should be well fixed and not loose and should rotate smoothly without any funny noises or shuddering.
- The gears
In a manual or automatic car the gears should engage easily and smoothly without being wrestled if so it means there are parts that need replacing.
- The engine
When idle should be smooth and restful and not shudder or whirr unevenly. And when you open the bonnet; be a little suspicious if it is very clean and shiny. (All that glitters is not gold…it may well have been cleaned to hide something).
- The oil
This should not be dirty when you pull out the dipstick and should not look like mud; the dirty oil may be a sign that the engine is damaged.
- The exhaust
It should have no holes and any sign of welding is not good as this is a sign that the engine is old and the exhaust system may well fall off from under the car.
- The body
This should be smooth and bump or bubble-free and there should be no rust around the fuel tank, the underside of the car and the door hinges.
- The bonnet (hood)
It should be checked underneath for flaking paint and rust around the panel joints at the front of the car. Usually this means that there were repairs made after a crash.
- The doors
They should open and close easily and smoothly and the rubber seals should be checked for signs of paint (another indication of crash-damage repairs).
- The panels and bodywork
They should line up smoothly so be suspicious of wavy panels or cars with uneven gaps between panels. You may well end up be buying halves of two different cars.
- The electric parts
They should all be working such as the windows, mirrors, seats, stereo, driving assistance, alarms and all interior lights.
- The brakes
Should be working and the only way to know is to test drive and see (feel) if they provide adequate stopping power when travelling at speed.
- The test drive
Should make you feel safe and comfortable when driving on a slope, in a busy lane, in a built up area, on gravel and a less well maintained road. A combination of this is hard to find in one location but just try as many as you can and at different speeds.