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Top 5 Exterior Items to Look at When Buying a Used Car


Published March 29, 2021

Buying a used car can be challenging given the components that wear out and break down over time. However, some of the most important factors can be spotted without even lifting the hood or entering the car. In this article, we look at the top 5 exterior items to focus on when buying a used car, and how serious each of these issues can be.

Body Panels

Corrosion and rust are by far the most important issues to be aware of when inspecting a used car. They donít always affect the structural safety of the vehicle, but they certainly diminish the appearance and greatly devalue the car.

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Perform a visual inspection of the wheel arches, the bottom of the door frames and the trunk, as well as any two connecting panels. Donít be afraid to get dirty and get underneath the car to check for structural issues. Lightly touch the edges of the panels to check for bubbling. It is not uncommon for rust to form underneath the coat of paint, making it hard to spot without taking a closer look.

Scratches and dents often blemish a used car, but if the paint has been chipped, then the panel can start to rust. Assess the issues and see whether you can lower the price, or avoid the

vehicle altogether.

Most states require the seller to disclose the accident history of a car, but some sellers might choose to obfuscate the information to maintain a higher resale value. Take a look at the vehicle from as many angles as possible.

Different tones of color can be a clear indicator of replaced or repaired panels. Tap the panels or use a magnet to check whether the part has been patched up with body filler. Get familiar with factory-welded seams and youíll be able to tell if the car has been reassembled from parts. As modern vehicles feature unibody construction, major repairs of structural parts can reduce the safety of the car.

Wheels and Tires

Buying a good used car is all about cutting future costs, which makes the wheels and tires a very important part. Steel wheels are fairly inexpensive, while a set of aluminum wheels in decent condition not only looks good but is also worth a few hundred dollars.

Tires are one of the expendable parts youíll need to replace eventually. The price of a new set with mounting and installation can be a significant expense, especially when buying an SUV. Some owners bundle in a set of winter tires theyíve used with the car, and that can be a great asset.

Windows and Lights

Take a careful look at all the windows, and especially the windshield, for cracks and scratches. A damaged windscreen will seriously impair your vision when driving at night. Shattering or line-cracks will not only be expensive to replace but also pose a traffic violation.

The same applies to the headlights and taillights. If they look scratched, dirty, or foggy, you might be able to polish them yourself or use the services of a cleaning company. Lights in good condition will give you better visibility on the road and make your vehicle more visible, especially when braking.

Suspension

Weíve all seen cars sitting dangerously close to the asphalt or leaning to one side or the other - these are the common signs of suspension problems. By pressing on the body above the wheel arch, you can test the suspension. If the car is too stiff, or bounces without a little resistance, it means that the suspension is gone.

Make sure you know how much itís going to cost you to replace the suspension before even making an offer on the car. Itís a major repair that will require you to take the car to a mechanic shop. Among the top 5 exterior items to look at, suspension can be the most expensive. In some cases, suspension can deteriorate to the point where the car is not safe for driving.

Door Handles

It might seem like door handles are a trivial part and have no place on this list, but youíd be surprised how many people buy used cars with one or more faulty door handles. Try every door a few times and see whether the locking mechanism works as intended.

The days of simple door handle mechanisms are long gone - with the central lock and mechanism built into the door, fixing a faulty door can be very problematic. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that door upholstery is hard to take off and put back while keeping the original look. If the car youíre looking at has problems with a door handle, donít write it off as a cheap repair.

Summary

By checking these 5 exterior items, youíll cover your ground and ensure that the vehicle in question will have minimal repair costs in the foreseeable future. Donít be afraid to buy a car that has a fault or two, as long as youíve calculated how much the replacements will cost. We hope this article has enhanced your search, and helps you as you buy your next used car!

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