DEKRA Automotive inspect over 9,000 used cars every year from customers buying their first small car to trading up to a nearly new luxury vehicle. With over 200 separate checks on every car they look at, they have amassed a huge database of knowledge to spot the lemon from the perfect car.
DEKRA’s experienced vehicle examiners have compiled a list of common failures, tips and issues to look out for when buying your used car.
- Worn tyres, split tyres, and the wrong tyres. – We have come across issues where tyres have been mixed up, incorrect size or just incorrectly fitted, it’s easy to miss, but a tyre failure at speed can be catastrophic. Don’t forget the spare wheel if supplied, an expensive omission if its missed!
- Check the Oil: A low engine oil level can indicate oil leaks or excessive oil usage – this is very common and no or low oil in an engine, shows poor maintenance and can be expensive to repair. One oil leak can produce a repair bill of over £500.
- Low coolant and or low antifreeze strength. Coolant leaks sound like a quick fix but it can indicate a major engine problem and result in a catastrophic engine failure minutes after you have taken the car away.
- Air conditioning not working or not cooling down the ambient air to the required temperature. This is very easy to miss, especially in winter but a new air conditioning system can cost £000’s and a dirty or failing aircon system can pump pollutants, spores and irritants into the cabin.
- Discharged and or insecure batteries – This can be a potential fire risk and shows poor maintenance. Easy to miss and you won’t get far on a defective battery.
- Missing wheel nuts – We have seen wheels that could fall off at any time. It can be very dangerous and shows poor or sloppy maintenance.
- Checking for corroded brake discs and brake judder felt through the steering wheel and the brake pedal when braking. – Warped brake discs are a sign of wear and sometimes abuse. How long before the brake warning light comes on (if its connected) and an expensive bill follows?
- Dashboard warning lights and interior and exterior car lights. Easy to miss but those lights can be expensive to repair and replace and can warn of further cost ahead.
- Bodywork and windscreens- dents and corrosion can indicate a hard life and spotting filler and signs of extensive damage can explain why it’s for sale and you don’t want to buy it.
- Paperwork – Checking ownership and correct registration, insurance, mileage and service history is a key part of buying a used car. On several occasions DEKRA inspectors have spotted that the VIN printed on the V5 Registration didn’t match the stamped VIN number on the vehicle, in fact it was a stolen vehicle, cloned to look like another identical car. The result, the police were called and took the vehicle away. Had the customer bought it, they would have lost all their money and no car!
Commenting on our top ten used car “fails” Shaun Stagg Dekra Sales Manager said “ it’s easy to be dazzled by the prospect of driving your dream car, but experience has taught us that the car may not be the bargain the buyer thinks it is and the investment of a level head to check the car thoroughly has saved a lot of heart ache later on “.