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CHECKLIST: Buying a Used Car

Because some new cars depreciate by as much as ten percent after the first year, and a whopping forty percent by their fourth birthday, buying a used vehicle makes more sense today, than ever. With a little “due diligence” smart shoppers often score incredible bargains on vehicles that look and run like their first day on the road. Here’s a helpful list of what to check to get a great used vehicle.


• Body – Inspect for potential past accidents. Check that the doors, the hood, and the trunk all lineup and close properly. Also, check for any rust, dents, or scratches.
• Tires – Look for uneven tread wear, mismatched tires, and total tread height. Do the quarter test. Insert a quarter in one of the grooves with the caribou facing down. If the tip of its nose is visible, the tire needs replacing.
• Lights – Have someone watch while you step on the brake, throw the car in reverse, employ each signal, and cycle through the running light options.


• Electronics – Verify that overhead, glove box, centre-console door, trunk, and vanity lights all operate as expected. Turn on the wipers, and spray the windshield with washer fluid. Check that power seats adjust properly and warm-up if heated. Test each radio band for a signal, check all speakers, and insert a CD into the player. Also check any auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, and rear audio controls. Be sure that all the gauges operate correctly.
• Climate Control – With the vehicle warmed up, starting with the warmest setting, cycle the fan from low to high, cycle through each position – feet, feet/vent, vent, and defrost/defog. When the temperature becomes too warm, turn on the air conditioning and check that, as well. If it’s cold outside, open the hood and make sure the air conditioner’s compressor is on and the vents aren’t just blowing external cold air.
• Upholstery – Pay close attention to odours, stains, and the wear on the seats and carpets. A musty smell or brown stain on the carpet indicates possible water damage. Seriously worn seating on a low-mileage vehicle could point to odometer roll-back.


• Fluids – Grey or foamy colour or consistency, or water droplets on the oil dipstick usually indicate serious problems. Coolants come in green, orange, or pink. A milky or rusty colour indicates an issue with the radiator. Healthy transmission fluid looks pink in colour. Brown transmission fluid with visible metal shards or that has a ‘burnt’ odour signal a serious problem.
• Belts and Hoses – Ensure that belts aren’t frayed or cracked and that hoses are soft and rubbery.
• Noise – Modern engines generally run smooth and quiet. Have a mechanic check any unusual sounds emanating from under the hood. • Underneath – Move the vehicle forward or back at least one car length and check that the ground is dry and free of fresh stains.

The Test Drive

• Be sure to drive on a variety of roads at various speeds.
• Note any pulling to either side and any vibrations or noises.
• Look for smooth shifting and good braking without any pull or vibrations.

Visit Zacks Auto Sales & Finance

Zacks Auto Sales is the number one place for pre-owned vehicles in Halifax. We have a huge selection of handpicked used cars, trucks, and SUVs. Our comprehensive website lists every vehicle on our lot, and we offer financing to fit every need and budget. Zacks Auto Sales & Finance – proudly serving Canada for over fifteen years.

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