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How to Inspect the Exterior of a Used Car

By: StaffPublished September 24, 2021

Take Note of Any Rust, Dents or Other Cosmetic Problems

When you inspect the body of the used car, make sure you check every body panel, as well as the roof of the car. You’ll want to look for any dents, scratches or rust, in addition to any misaligned panels or gaps that might indicate poor assembly. If you find that the car you’re interested in has light scratches or minor cosmetic problems, those can all be fixed. However, you’ll really want to look out for rust, which can lead to serious problems later on. Also, when you’re inspecting the body condition of the car, make sure you open and close each door, hood and the trunk. Make sure none of the hinges seem loose and inspect the rubber seal for tearing.

Check the Glass for Cracks and Imperfections

Inspect the glass on the car carefully and look for any cracks or large pocked areas. Keep in mind that this inspection should extend beyond a quick look at the windshield. Cracks in the windshield, side windows, tail and head lights, side mirrors will worsen over time, leading to costly repairs. It’s better to find and address these problems before you buy the car. 

Give the Suspension the Bounce Test

An easy way to check the suspension of the car is to bounce each corner of it up and down. If shock absorbers are in good condition, the car will rebound just once. If you notice it keeps moving up and down, then the shock absorbers will need to replaced or repaired.

Look for Worn of Mismatched Tires

Tires can tell you a lot about how long the car has been driven. If the car has less than 20,000 miles on it, it should still have the original tires. You’ll want to check to make sure that all four tires are the same because different tires might indicate that they have been replaced. When you inspect the tires, be sure to look at the tread wear. Wear should be evenly dispersed which would indicate that the tires have been rotated regularly. In order to be legal and safe, all tires must have at least 1/16 inch of tread on them. Keep in mind that knowing what to look for when you inspect the exterior of a used car is only half the battle. It’s what you do with this information that really counts. Thorough exterior inspections can highlight any causes for concern or help you find a diamond in the rough.

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