Used Car Buying Guide 2021 – Choosing The Right Car – Mechanic’s Advice

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Buying a used car can go either of two ways – You get an amazing deal on a well-maintained, relatively new car or you end up having new surprises at every mile down the road because you lacked the knowledge of proper pre-purchase inspection. In most cases, people generally don’t know how to inspect a used vehicle and end up getting a raw deal because of it. 

But whether you buy a car from a dealer or your friend next door, a second-hand car does not have to be some compromise on quality. It all depends, how the vehicle has been taken care of through its lifetime and how well you probe to find out about it. 

To help you find the right car and kick the tires on a sweet deal, we decided to share some tips to easily check vehicular health and buy yourself your dream car for a song.

Checking The Exterior and Interior

The first thing that strikes you when you see a car is its appearance, both inside and outside. Something, in particular, to look for in the exterior is rust and paint damage. You do not want to buy a vehicle that hasn’t ever been ceramic coated or even given a proper wash. Further, make sure the car doesn’t have major damage on the exterior, it could possibly be a warning sign that the vehicle has sustained an accident. Small dents might be okay if the vehicle is relatively old.  

Coming to the interior, you need to make sure the upholstery is stitched fine everywhere with no stitch sticking out and that it doesn’t smell like it hasn’t been washed or dry cleaned ever. Make sure the infotainment system works and nothing is broken in the electronics such as the light, switches, radio, music player, navigation, NFC, etc.

Take It For A Spin

Before starting to inspect the vehicle, you should always take it for a test drive. Driving the vehicle will allow you to know a lot about the vehicle, whether you like it or not if it has any sort of problems bunched down there like any sounds or screeches. If you like how the car feels on the road, only then should you move to a thorough examination. 

FSH – Full Service History 

A full-service history of timely car services can assure that the vehicle has been taken care of and serviced at a certified and reliable workshop. Most times the dealerships will provide you with an FSH of the vehicle though you may not get the same with individual sellers. If a vehicle does not have a service history or has a poor record, it is better to move ahead as such a vehicle could possibly cost more in the long run due to extreme wear on the internal parts. During the test drive, you can notice things such as unintended veering which could point to a problem in wheel alignment or you could find a delay in gear switching which is an enormously costly repair. 

Inspecting The Engine 

Now coming to the most important aspect which will dictate how far more the vehicle is going to go. Here are the easy ways you could inspect the vehicle to understand how well maintained it is. 

Exhaust smoke 

One of the more foul reasons to sell a vehicle is a blown head gasket. In most cases, if a vehicle has been diagnosed with a blown head gasket, the cost to repair it usually outweighs buying a new one especially if the car is older. And though you might see nice and expensive cars being sold for a song on the internet, sometimes they mention the sneaky caveat “blown head gasket”.  

Even if the seller hasn’t disclosed any such problem, it is important for you to check it and you can do that by simply looking at the exhaust pipe. Have the engine revs up high and notice the kind of smoke coming out of the tailpipe. If you observe thick gusts of blue or white smoke, it is a blown head gasket.

Further, you can also know about an engine’s health by looking at the exhaust smoke. To confirm whether the combustion chamber is working in the order you should see faint exhaust from the pipe with a little bit of condensation. However, if the tailpipe is gushing out large amounts of black smoke, it is likely the engine is running rich and working correctly. 

Check The Filters

Inspecting the air filters in the car and the AC is by far the easiest thing to do. The air filter is located just under the hood and you can check the cabin air filter by testing the AC up close. The air filter transfers clean air to the engine making sure no debris or dirt enters the combustion chamber. If the seller is so cavalier as to not change the air filter or even clean, it could be a warning that you should move to some other car. And just like the air filter, the cabin air filter cleans the air coming inside the car so it is extremely important that it be clean. 

Check For Engine Noises

Pop open the hood and ensure the rotating components are in sync and run in proper order with the typical sound of a raspy engine. But if you hear abnormalities such as clashes or slight clicks, there may be some sinister problems waiting for you to repair.  

Other Things To Make Sure 

Besides inspection, there are certain things that are equally important and must be checked off before closing the deal on your new vehicle. 

Registration Certificate

This Registration Certificate proves that you are buying a car from the official and registered buyer and it is not some unofficial purchase. Still, though, you must always check for the originality of the RC, make sure engine and chassis no. on the RC should match with those on the vehicle. 


Change of ownership also brings the ownership of the insurance. The insurance of a vehicle can inform you on past accident claims and where the vehicle stands now in terms of its IDV. 

Pollution Certificate

The PUC or pollution under control certificate is mandated by the government for every on-road vehicle. It confirms that the vehicle’s emissions comply with the national standard for carbon footprints. Also, it is a requirement for ownership transfer.

No Objection Certificate

This no objection certificate issued by the insurance company, confirms that the owner of the vehicle has cleared all payments towards the vehicle and that the financier does not hold a claim on the car anymore. 

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