Vehicle inspections

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ConsumerMotor industry

When you buy a vehicle you should inspect it thoroughly.

An independent vehicle inspection can help identify problems and assess the value of the car accurately. It can also help you to negotiate the sale price. There are numerous reputable organisations that can perform this inspection for you.

Such an inspection should be done before any final decision is made and before you buy the vehicle. If buying the vehicle from a dealer, you may consider making this a "Condition of Sale" on any contract to purchase the vehicle.

There are some things about the vehicle you can check yourself, such as:

  • Vehicle Identification Number, Engine Number and Number Plate - Ensure all match the licence papers for the vehicle.
  • Engine appearance - Listen for any rattles or knocking.
  • Engine oil - Check the colour ensuring that it is not ‘gluggy’ or ‘milky’.
  • Engine idle - Does the vehicle idle smoothly?
  • Oil fumes - Can you smell any burning oil or excessive smoke emissions?
  • Radiator coolant - Check coolant level and colour. Check for signs of leakage.
  • Radiator cooler fins and core tubes - Ensure fins and tubes are not deteriorated. Check for signs of leakage.
  • Battery - Check battery is secure and maintained (electrolyte level).
  • Tyres - Ensure all are roadworthy (Note: dealers are not legally required to provide a spare tyre.)
  • Oil leaks - Check for oil leaks from engine gearbox/transmission and differential.
  • Exhaust system - Ensure secure and free from leaks.
  • Body of car - Check general condition and overall appearance.
  • Rust/accident damage - Check for the extent and location of any rust. Look for signs of repairs as a result of accident damage.
  • Panels - Check for any signs of damage and repairs.
  • Doors and boot lid - Ensure they all seal properly.
  • Paint - Check overall condition. Look for mismatched colour.
  • Upholstery/trim/carpets - Check overall condition. (Note: usually a good indicator if the vehicle has been maintained.)
  • Seat belts - Check operation and that they are secure and not frayed.
  • Lights - Ensure all are operational and lenses are not damaged or broken.
  • Equipment and accessories - eg Air conditioning, electric windows, sound system, etc - Ensure all are operational.
  • Jack and tool kit - Are tools supplied? (Note: dealers are not legally required to provide these tools.)
  • Test drive - Conduct a thorough test drive.
  • Steering - Check for excessive wear/movement. Does the vehicle drive in a straight line?
  • Brakes - Ensure the car stops in a straight line, does not pull to one side. Are there any grinding noises?
  • Engine - Check power and performance.
  • Transmission - Ensure it is not noisy and that gear change is smooth.
  • Suspension - Check operation of shock absorbers, springs and vehicle ride height.

Note: Check with the vehicle seller to ensure that there is an insurance policy that covers you if an accident occurs when you are test driving the vehicle

Quick tips - arrange a mechanical inspection from Consumer Protection WA on Vimeo.

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