Two things you must do before buying a used car

A brand new car can cost a small fortune to buy. This is why so many people prefer to purchase used vehicles, which, although they may not be in pristine condition, are usually far less expensive than their newer counterparts.

However, when you opt for second-hand, there is a chance that you may end up stuck with a car that has major mechanical or electrical faults, which you then have to constantly bring to your local mechanics for repair. Because of this, it's important not to rush into making this type of purchase. Here are two tips which should help you to find a safe and reliable second-hand car.

Conduct a thorough inspection of every car you view

When viewing a car for sale, it's crucial to conduct a thorough inspection of it. A quick scan of the exterior and a few seconds spent sitting inside the vehicle won't enable you to identify problems or determine if the car is really worth the advertised sale price. Take your time and don't allow yourself to feel rushed or pressured by the seller. If your knowledge of cars is somewhat poor and you happen to have a friend or relative with some expertise in this subject area, it may be worth asking them to come along to help you with the inspection process.

When checking the exterior, look for indications of damage to, or deterioration of the bodywork; things like dents and deep scratches could indicate that the vehicle has been involved in an accident. Watch out for signs of rust too, and spend a few minutes inspecting the tyres for signs of wear and tear. Then, look underneath the car; if you spot brown stains, this could mean that there's an oil leak. If there is a light coloured, chalky residue, there may be water leaking from the vehicle's radiator.

Inside the car, check the condition of the seat belts (they should be easy to pull back and forth), as well as the electrics; the windows, music player, heating and air-conditioning systems should all be in good working order.

Go for a test drive

You should never buy a used car you haven't driven. A test drive will not only provide you with the opportunity to see if you enjoy driving a particular vehicle but could also potentially reveal faults which were not apparent during your visual inspection.

When you get the car onto the road, listen out for unusual noises; a crunching sound that only occurs when you change gears, for example, could be a sign of a damaged clutch. Similarly, a deep knocking sound could indicate that the engine's rod bearings have worn out.

During your journey, you should also keep an eye out for coloured smoke. When pressing the accelerator, take a peek in the rear view mirror; a puff of thick, blue-hued smoke which only emerges during acceleration could mean that oil is being burnt by the engine.