Buying a car is fraught with peril. We’ve addressed some of this in the past, and covered the bases with a handy guide of free online services you can use to check a car’s history. But that’s not enough.
Sometimes a car can look good digitally, but may well be hiding something. With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide of five things you should look for that could show a car has a hidden past.
01 Check your bolts
Not every accident is declared. A car could have hit a tree, or a bench, or an elephant all without the insurers getting involved. As such, there will be nothing in the history to show it. So you need to polish those peepers and get looking.
The simplest giveaway would be the bolts holding panels on. At the factory, the car’s metalwork is assembled and then it’s painted. So, the bolts should be sitting under a coat of paint. If they’re not, or if the paint is clearly broken around them, ask the seller why. It’s a 100% guarantee the panels have been removed at some point.
02 Wear and tear
Does the car you’re looking at have low mileage? Great stuff, we all like a low-miler. `but what’s this? The steering wheel has been polished to a near shine due to use? The pedals, too, are their rubbers excessively worn?
It takes a long time and a lot of miles for that to happen. And how about the carpet. Lift the mats and have a look – if you’ve got wear or even holes, there is absolutely no way the car has done the low miles the seller is telling you it has.
03 Getting warmer
If you turn up to view a car, you want the engine to be cold. A cold engine, when started up, will be an honest engine. When cold, it can hide nothing. But if it’s been warmed up before your arrival, all that toasty oil can hide a multitude of clatters and knocks.
If it’s warm, ask why? Especially if the car is sat on a sales pitch where it wouldn’t exactly be popping out for a drive. It’s a sneaky old trick, but one that’s still used.
04 Not worth the paper it’s written on
Service history is a wonderful thing to have. It gives you the peace of mind you need before dropping a load of cash on a new motor. At least, it does if it’s for the right car. We’re not trying to go all tinfoil hat here, but there is a subculture of selling service books.
It makes a car more valuable, so there is a demand. As such, never skim through the service book. Look closely, match up any numbers you can, make sure it is 100% for the car you’re looking at.
05 A little time, a lot of work
You’re buying a car with an MOT, obviously. But that’s not a guarantee that everything is honest. Have a look online at the MOT history and get your detective eyes out. Cars fail an MOT from time to time, that’s fine.
But did the one you want fail one on something drastic, like a load of welding, only to suddenly have a fresh MOT the next day? You can see all of this, test dates, fail dates, pass dates, mileage in and out. If something doesn’t add up, question it.