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Safety in Used Cars: What to look for!

2022 Ram 1500

Safety in Used Cars: What to Look For!

Buying a used car can be a rewarding and exciting experience if you follow a few important steps to ensure that the car you buy is safe for the road and will not become a money pit for repairs.

Here are the most important things that you must do before taking ownership.

Test Drive

Before driving out onto the road, take a good, hard look at the vehicle. Stand back and look carefully at the body panels and the gaps between the panels. Walk around the car and look at all the gaps. If there’s a change in the gap, it could indicate some repairs have been done, and now a panel isn’t fitting properly. Run a small magnet over the panels. It should stick everywhere. If it doesn’t, that could indicate body filler under the paint.

Open all the doors and the hood and trunk. Examine the rubbers. You are checking for their condition and to see if there’s any overspray that again indicates some repair work has been done.

Lift the carpets and see what the floor looks like - is there any rust?

If there’s a spare wheel, check it over and make sure all the tools and the jack are in place.

Look under the hood and pay attention to the condition of the panels you can see. Are they dented, or is there any indication of rust, overspray or anything else out of the ordinary?

You must take a reasonable test drive. Don’t just drive around the block. Take the car out and drive it for at least 20 minutes so the engine is thoroughly warmed up. During your test drive, turn off the radio and wind up the windows. Listen very carefully for any rattles or other noises. Make a mental note of any noises that you hear. Open the front windows and listen again. Make a note of any noises you hear. Look often in the rearview mirror and make sure there’s no smoke.

During the drive, pay attention to how the gears change and the action of the clutch for a manual transmission. If anything feels like it's catching or jerking, make a note of this. For an automatic take note of the up and downshifts, they should be smooth.

Find a quiet piece of road, and after checking for traffic, test the brakes. Make sure the car doesn’t pull to the side and that it brakes efficiently. Make sure there’s no squealing or metal-on-metal noise. Don’t forget to check the handbrake. Check all the sensors (front and back) are working.

Check all of the controls are working, lights, hooter, indicators, air conditioning, infotainment screen, etc.

Lastly, look at the tires and ensure there’s even wear. Odd wear patterns can indicate alignment problems.

Check the Documents

Make sure that all the vehicle’s documents are in order. In Ontario, ask to see the safety standards certificate and make sure it’s valid for the vehicle you’re looking at. Don't forget to check both the engine and VINs, not just the registration plate. Also, ensure that the odometer reading matches or is very close to the mileage on the safety certificate.


Get a Vehicle History Report

Many outlets will produce a Vehicle History Report. The report provides information on the vehicle's maintenance history, accident records, and number of previous owners. Read the report thoroughly so you understand the history of the car. Try to contact the previous owners and talk to them about the car.

Research Recalls

If the manufacturer has issued a recall on the vehicle, ensure that any remedial work has been undertaken. If the recall is for a major fault, ask the seller to provide proof that the remedial action has been taken.


At this point, you have done about all that you can do to make sure that the vehicle is in good condition, hasn’t been in an accident and has had any remedial repairs done, but you cannot check inside the major components.


Mechanic’s Assessment

It may not always be possible for you to get a mechanic to run their professional eye over the car, but try to get this done, especially if this is an expensive vehicle. If the seller has a line of buyers, you will have to decide if you’re willing to skip this step. If there is a spotty maintenance record, not much evidence of repair receipts or no Vehicle History Report, you would be well advised to skip this car and look at the next one.

Visit Us at Lincoln Township Motors

Do your homework thoroughly, as once you’ve paid your money, it’s up to you to fix any problems, especially if you’ve bought it privately. Not only is there considerable inconvenience chasing up the previous owner, but you could be faced with expensive repair bills. 

Avoid being pressured by the seller's claims of buyers lining up, and never pay a deposit to hold the vehicle. If you decide not to buy it, you may have great difficulty getting the money back.

It will always be safer to buy through a reputable dealer, so come into Lincoln Township Motors and look at our used car showroom. We can guarantee the best deal on great used cars.