If you're buying a used car in Melbourne, doing a few pre-purchase checks is essential - especially if you have chosen the private sale route. However, it simply isn't practical or cost effective to have a full mechanic's check done on every vehicle you consider buying. Today some of the car city's experts take you through 20 pre-purchase checks that anyone can do before buying a used car in Melbourne.
You can check most of these without even putting the key in the ignition:
• Look for bubbles or colour differences in paintwork, which could indicate patching after cutting out rust or after an accident
• If doors, the bonnet or boot don't open or close easily, the car may have been in an accident. Take it to a mechanic for a proper roadworthy inspection.
• Look for oil leaks (or a suspiciously clean underbody!)
• Check the tyres for even wearing to ensure good steering and suspension
Pop the bonnet
Even without mechanical knowledge, you can check the following quite easily:
• Look for milky or grey coloured oil (indicates serious engine problems)
• Check that the coolant is bright and clean, without oil (indicates serious engine problems)
• Look for corrosion or damage on the radiator cooling fins or battery mount (could indicate prior collision)
Then, once you've started the car:
• Listen with the bonnet open for irregular running noises or excessive nosie from the exhaust
• Look for signs of leakage
• Open the oil filler cap to see that there are no fumes coming out
• Watch the exhaust for smoke
When you're driving
• Accelerate, decelerate and cruise, paying attention to the engine
• Check whether gears change smoothly
• Check the amount of play in the steering wheel (should be 5cm or less, ideally)
• Loosen your grip on the steering wheel when traffic dies off, and see whether the car pulls to one side. Some simple steering or suspension fixes may be necessary
• Brake, both softly and harder, and check whether the car keep driving straight when you do so.
• Drive over a few speed humps if possible, and listen for rattles.
Legal checks for private sales
These checks are always recommended if you're buying a car through a Trading Post ad or other private sale route, like eBay. If you're buying through a Melbourne used car dealer, you only need to check that they have a license number displayed in order to be assured that the seller has gone through all the necessary legal checks.
For private sales, though, you should record the VIN number from the compliance plate and the registration details from the papers. Then:
• Match the details on the compliance plate with the registration papers
• Check the engine number from the engine itself against the registration papers
• Check with REVS whether there is money owing on the car
Remember not all problems you may turn up during a pre-purchase inspection will be dealbreakers. Used cars Melbourne aren't supposed to be perfect... and if a perfect model exists, it would be a lot closer in pricing to a new car than a used one! Know that you'll have some niggles and some fixes - but also know that the car you're buying is safe, and worth what you are paying.