Research before buying a used car

Before you go out for a test drive, you should do a bit of research to find out about the vehicle model. What are the typical weak points, and what service intervals should be observed (e.g., changing the timing belt)? An LA City Cars salesperson can be helpful in answering the first question.

When you contact LA City Cars, you can ask all the important questions about the car you are interested in. You can get answers such as if the car has been serviced, has needed extensive repairs, or has been in an accident. You can then get the overall picture during a personal visit, including a test drive. Never the less, you must pay detailed attention to the following points:

Do a thorough rust check on the paint and also the paint itself

Check the body! Are there any rust spots, scratches, or blemishes that could become major rust problems? Typical rust spots can be found on the wheel arches, door edges, tank cap, trim strips, or other attachments. Also examine the paint in daylight for unevenness or color differences, which can be an indication of damage. Also, take a look under the car (take a flashlight and pad!). Is the underbody clean and free of rust? Are there any traces of oil?

2: Measure tire tread depth.

You should use a tread depth gauge to check the tread depth of the tires when inspecting the used car. The law requires a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm for summer tires and 4 mm for winter tires. If the tires are already worn out, they need to be replaced as quickly as possible, which you have to take into account when calculating the price. You should also check whether the tires are worn evenly; irregular wear can indicate problems such as incorrect tire pressure or an adjusted track.

3: Inspect the glass and windshield

Take a good look at the windshield. Even small damage, for example, from the dreaded stone chips, can quickly become a major problem.

4: Lights check

Be sure to check the function of all lights, i.e., headlights, indicators, brake lights, fog lights, and tail lights. Also examine the covers for cracks, stone chips, etc. Attention: If the headlight lenses are fogged up on the inside, this can indicate a defect.

5: View of the Interior

Are the seat covers and surfaces in good condition? Does the dashboard have any damage, cracks, etc.? Can the seats be easily adjusted or folded down (back seat)? The seat belts must roll up smoothly and lock when pulled strongly. Also check whether the window regulators, windshield wipers, horn, and all lamps work and whether the mirrors can be adjusted as intended. Fans, heating, and, if necessary, air conditioning should also be tried out. Also, pay attention to any unpleasant smells. All rubber seals (windows, trunks, doors, and possibly the sunroof) should be intact and not porous.

6: Compare mileage

Does the speedometer’s mileage match the details given by the seller and in other documents, such as the service booklet? And does this mileage also correspond to the condition of the car? An example: If the pedals and the gearshift lever are already significantly worn and the driver’s seat is sagging, even though the car has supposedly only been driven 80,000 miles, this indicates an attempted deception.

7: View into the engine compartment

Is there any rust (also pay attention to the side walls)? Is there any noticeable loss of oil or fluid? Oil, brake fluid, and coolant levels should be checked; deviations can indicate defects.

8: Start the engine

When starting the engine, pay attention to whether it starts easily, runs smoothly, and makes any unusual noises.

Tip: Take a second person with you to the vehicle check before buying a used car, and let them also get behind the wheel during the test drive! Four eyes see more than two, and any anomalies in driving behavior can be discovered and analyzed more easily together.

9: Check driving behavior.

Only now does the actual test drive begin. Pay attention to whether the engine runs smoothly and “accepts” the gas. Can the transmission shift smoothly and silently? How well does the steering respond? Does the car drive exactly straight on a flat, straight road, or are there deviations in one direction? Do the vehicle and/or steering wheel vibrate at higher speeds? When driving slowly, open the window and listen carefully. Can you hear any unusual noises from the engine, exhaust, etc.?

10: Brake test

You should also test the brakes in a safe environment (e.g., in a parking lot). Let go of the steering wheel once while braking. If the car turns in one direction, the brakes need to be readjusted. The handbrake applies even at walking speed! Does it apply evenly and firmly?

11: Conclusion

Ultimately, a test drive is, of course, the only way to determine whether a model suits you or not. What is the seating position and clarity like? Do you like the color? Are the space and performance appropriate and sufficient? Does the driving behavior meet your expectations? Even if there are no defects objectively visible, if you have doubts during the test drive as to whether the car is really the right one for you, you should test other models before buying a used car.