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Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to purchase a brand new vehicle. When shopping for a pre-owned car or truck it’s normal to see some wear and tear, but not every sign of regular use is detrimental to the value of a car. Because many vehicle owners take good care of their cars, used vehicles are often a good value for those needing reliable, everyday transportation. That said, the four items listed below are components that you or your chosen inspector should pay close attention to before you write a check.
Frame Damage
Every single other component of a vehicle relies on a sturdy frame. The frame is also designed to take the brunt of any impact from a crash, so a vehicle with a robust accident history is definitely more prone to frame damage. Short of an inspection by a professional mechanic you can look down the length and width of a vehicle to see if you notice any unnatural bends or dips in the body. Any out of place curves along the sight lines of the car can also indicate potential frame damage. Record of damaging past accidents can also usually be found by running a vehicle history report.
Cars rely on a myriad of fluids to stay in good working order. For those fluids to do their respective jobs, you need them to stay IN the car. Before and after a test drive be sure to check for any fluid pooling under the vehicle. Regardless of the season you’ll also want to run the AC and heater to make sure that the heating and cooling systems don’t contain any hidden leaks that would otherwise stay hidden until the next shift in seasonal weather. Signs of oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze under the vehicle should also be addressed before closing any deal.

alignment issues
Common alignment issues.

One of the easiest things to check absent of a professional inspection is steering alignment. The tires on the front of your vehicle should be completely vertical and in proper alignment to be safely operated. Toe in or toe out and negative or positive chamber leanings could be indicative of needing nothing more than needing a steering alignment, but could also point to larger issues with the vehicle as a whole. The steering wheel should also rest level during a test drive with no pulling to the left or right when driving in a straight line.
Electrical Systems
Most vehicle owners tend to take add-ons like electric door locks and windows for granted, and can easily gloss over checking those items in an inspection. Be sure to turn everything on, check headlights and tail lights, turn on the stereo, and test out any navigation systems. Poorly functioning or quickly diminishing power in the electrical system can indicate potential problems with the car’s battery, or possibly even the alternator.
Third Party Inspections
In the event that you’re buying a vehicle through an online classifieds or auction site, you should definitely be using a third party inspector. Our friends at will send someone out to inspect the vehicle you’re interested in and do everything from a simple walk around to snap a few photos, to custom inspections that culminate in a specialized report compiled by the looker.
For more information about buying and selling used vehicles online see our posts on the six best used cars for your money, the used car buyers checklist, and three reasons to buy your next car online.

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