Buying a car is a big investment. Going through the second-hand market allows you to acquire a vehicle cheaper than if you decide to buy it new, while getting a good deal, provided however that you check the key points of the car before buying it. ‘to buy. Here is a non-exhaustive list of 10 important points to check for a transaction with complete peace of mind.
- Check car maintenance
- Observe the status of consumables
- Exclude wrecked cars
- Confirm car serial numbers
- Judge the condition of the bodywork
- Know the causes of certain anomalies
- Hunt for changes
1. Check car maintenance
The first point to pay attention to concerns the history of the car, that is to say the follow-up that has been done on the car and the services that have been carried out. To do this, trust the invoices and stamps in the maintenance book . If the owner has neither, it’s not a very good sign. Also check the origin of the car, if it is a French car or an import (a car from Germany or Spain for example).
An up-to-date technical inspection for the sale is good proof that the seller is ready to sell, but it cannot replace maintenance invoices, it is only a report stipulating that the car meets the conditions necessary for its traffic on the road!
In addition, each brand has its specificities, so remember to check those of the vehicle you are looking for beforehand. For example, at Audi, Long Life maintenance is suggested every 30,000 km or every 2 years if 30,000 km is not reached.
The observation is the same in the different brands of the Volkswagen group (VW, Skoda, Seat, etc.). Check the maintenance intervals if you want to buy a vehicle from another brand (Citroën, Peugeot, BMW, Mini, Opel, Nissan, etc.). There is also a difference in periodicity between a petrol car and a diesel car.
You can also carry out intermediate maintenance (oil changes and checks) to check that everything is up to date and that there are no parts to change. If the seller carried out the maintenance himself, you have no guarantee on the operation carried out and the parts used may be of lower quality than those of a dealer or garage.
Parts invoices can reassure you but will not tell you the skills of the person who did the interviews. See if the seller has prepared his sale: if he has already prepared a certificate of transfer or a certificate of non-pledge , he really wants to sell and these are good points.
2. Observe the status of consumables
Ask for the invoices for the parts and consumables changed. This will allow you to have an idea of what is to be expected (changing the distribution kit, brake pads and discs, tyres, etc.) and therefore the additional costs to be expected in the year following the purchase.
You should know that certain parts such as the timing belt must be changed after a certain number of years or kilometers (variable according to the models and manufacturers) and that the cost of this operation can be high (up to €1,000 for premium brands). Use these observations about the condition of the car you are targeting to adjust the price to the buyer.
If you don’t know how to assess the state of wear of consumables, you can look at our detailed articles on brake pads and tires .
3. Exclude wrecked cars
Make sure the car you want to buy has not been in an accident. If in the invoices shown to you by the seller you note changes to headlights, windshields, or body parts, this should make you vigilant.should make you vigilant. Be alert to some used car tell-tale signs showing it’s been in an accident.
Of course, these elements could have been changed for other reasons, but they are the most affected during a shock. Check the alignment of the body parts as well.
Changes of parts can be due to a harmless shock such as a slight collision, but it can also be due to a more serious accident during which certain mechanical parts of the car, or the chassis may have been affected. You should know that a damaged car ages less well than a normal car and will be much more difficult to resell.
4. Confirm car serial numbers
An “administrative” point to check is the serial number of the vehicle. It is written on the gray card, on the label which is located on one of the front doors of the car, as well as stamped on the chassis.
These 3 numbers must be identical, otherwise it indicates a stolen car – and you don’t want to buy a stolen car! This is a point systematically checked by CapCar inspectors , because it is very important that the car you have in front of you corresponds to what is written on the registration certificate.
5. Judge the condition of the bodywork
The bodywork should be looked at carefully, even if its condition is not the most important element. If the exterior is slightly scratched or dented, the mechanical condition of the vehicle is generally not affected. The aesthetic side of the car is not essential but allows to observe if the owner takes care of his car.
6. Body inspection by a CapCar inspector
For example, if there is a little foam on the window seals it often means that the car is sleeping outside and not in a garage. A car resting indoors will generally look cooler. Door “pockets” and damaged bumpers indicate very urban use. We can find on cars that have been on the road or the motorway more marked traces of gravelling on the front face
It is also necessary to compare the number of defects noted with the age of the vehicle. Don’t expect the same condition from a 7 year old car and a 3 year old car.
On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the cost of repairing a scratch or a dent is not the same depending on the car and must be subject to a discount accordingly (it is less serious on a small Renault Twingo than on a big BMW 3 Series or a Mercedes Class A!).
The bodywork is also used to record an accident that would not have been mentioned by the seller: if you observe doors that are not properly aligned, a trunk that does not close without forcing or other, beware, the car has maybe been in an accident!
The best example to explain this point concerns tires! Do not forget to check their wear in depth but also their respective wear: the two front tires and the two rear tires must be identically worn. Uneven wear at the front or rear can have several causes, for example a lack of parallelism.
Similarly, jumping suspensions can announce an imminent replacement, as can a sticky gearbox or a slipping clutch, signs of worn parts. These are therefore possible costs that are added to carry out the repair.
Also inspect the wear of the brake pads and discs. If you want to know other tips and tricks, ask our inspectors , their experience has allowed them to see many different scenarios.
7. Hunt for changes
Check that the car is original. It is important not to go for a modified or “tuned” car, so no tampered with engines or questionable modifications! Having an original car is essential to avoid insurance problems, warranty denial and hidden defects.
For example, if you notice that the rims are not original, find out what the owner has changed on the car. Modified rims may just reflect the owner’s desire to modify the exterior appearance of the car, without having modified the whole car. Ask him what prompted him to do it (fitment of winter tyres, desire for a change, look, etc.), this will give you good information. Also pay attention to cars that have undergone engine preparations (exhaust, intake, reprogramming , turbo, etc.). If you are interested in a car of this type, make sure that the preparation is serious and buy knowingly if necessary.