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Car Inspections: What You Need to Know

Considering buying a new or used car? If you decide to go with a used car, there are often many more "unknowns" about the vehicle. Is the car as safe as the owner claims? How many times has it broken down in the past? When buying a used car, strongly consider inspecting the vehicle first – or have a mechanic inspect it for you. Here are some car inspection rules and tips to help you navigate the used car buying process.

What to bring to the automobile inspection:

PopularMechanics.com offers a helpful car inspection checklist, which has every inspection question color-coded according to level of importance: "noted, but not serious" "cause for concern," "serious issue" or "deal breaker – flee the premises." Print a copy of the checklist and bring it along with the following items when doing a car inspection:

  • CD or auxiliary cord with MP3 player – Test out the car's CD player to ensure that CDs are not skipping and the audio system sounds good. If the car has an auxiliary output, test out your MP3 player by plugging an auxiliary cord into the output.
  • Flashlight – You will need a flashlight to look underneath the car for leaking and rust as well as examining parts under the hood.
  • Paper and pen – Bring paper and a pen to jot down notes and important findings (and to check off items on your car inspection checklist).
  • Paper towels – When you check the engine oil, a paper towel will come in handy. Also, these will help you clean up after examining parts under the hood.
  • Vehicle history report – Check out a vehicle history report to get a better idea of the car’s past. You will find helpful information about previous repairs, accidents, odometer readings and title information.

What to be cautious of while inspecting:

  • Certain title brands – When you check the vehicle history, look at title brands of the used car you are inspecting. Be cautious of salvage and lemon brands, both of which are risky brands to buy. A salvage brand car has been damaged so much that the cost to repair is close to (or more) than its fair market value. Lemon brand cars have one or more mechanical problems that make them unsafe to drive, but the definition of a lemon can vary by state.
  • Damage from water – Flood damage should show up on the vehicle history report, but make sure you still check for other water damage. Look for mildew in the trunk, and check under the seats for any water marks or lines.
  • Damaged vehicle frame – During your automobile inspection, refer to the car's history report to make sure the vehicle does not have frame damage from past accidents.
  • Lost or changed VIN plate – Look for the vehicle identification number plate in the car, which can usually be found inside the windshield or door-jamb. If the VIN number is missing or looks like it has been tampered with, there is a possibility that the used car has been stolen.
  • Previous police cars or taxis – These cars have likely experienced more wear and tear than other used cars. Proceed with caution, and look at the vehicle history report for previous repairs and breakdowns to get a better idea of the car’s past as a service vehicle.

Once your car inspections are complete and you have found the right used car for you, don't forget to complete all paperwork, transfer titles/registration and add your new car to your auto insurance policy. To save some money on your insurance, look for affordable car insurance companies to find the best coverage for you at a reasonable price.

The provided information and safety suggestions were obtained from sources believed to be reliable and is intended for informational purposes only. Titan and its affiliates assume no liability in connection with providing it or your use of it. Your circumstances may not warrant or require some or all of the safety suggestions, and there may be additional available safety procedures that are not referenced on this webpage.

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