Images: morguefile.comUnless you are buying a pre-certified used car from a dealer, sometimes you just don’t know what you are getting if you buy a used car from a private party.

Even if you buy a “regular” used car from a dealership, you still have to be aware that there may be hidden problems with the vehicle that aren’t immediately noticeable until several months later.

This being the case, just what can car shoppers do to prepare for possible defects in the used cars they are considering buying? One way is to bring a magnet along. Pass it above the entire body of the car, if there are patches or large areas that don’t attract the magnet, these sections have had body repair done.

Give It a Good Smell

Sniff the interior of the car and see if you can detect a musty or moldy scent. Also check the trunk of the car for this smell. If these are present it is a good indication that the car may have been water damaged or flooded out.

Flooded cars are notorious for electrical problems and rusting parts.

Inspect the Tailpipe

This part of the car goes unnoticed but is a good indicator of how healthy the car engine is. If the tailpipe looks fairly clean and without residue, the engine is probably in good shape.

But if you see oil stains or a black gummy substance, this means that the engine has been burning oil, which means the car’s pistons have a poor seal, or other serious engine problems.

Check for Rust

Another indicator that a car may have been flooded or submerges is to inspect hinges and bolts located on the door jamb of the car. Rust means bad news as the car has experienced some serious water problems.

New or Old Tires?

If the tires look as if they came with the vehicle, check the tire treads for uneven wear. If the treads look worn at different locations on the tires, this may mean misalignment of the tires, or problems with steering.

If you see new tires on the car, this may be a way to hide problems associated with steering or alignment. Ask why there are new tires on the car and when it had a wheel alignment.

Inspect the Paint Job

When possible, always check out used cars during the daytime. There’s nothing like sunlight that can expose uneven paint, or paint that doesn’t match on the car. Differences in paint color often mean that car has had body repair on it, which indicates that the car has been in an accident and has been repaired.

Source: Consumer Reports

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