Car Clues – Tips To Make Sure You’re Buying A Diamond


I have spoken at some length now about how to maintain a car to get the best out of it. I’ve spoken about how to drive a car to make sure you are spending as little time and money at the pumps as possible. But what if you’ve bought a used car and you want to know how well a previous owner has taken care of it. In other words, what are the signs of a good car? What are the vital car clues? What can give us satisfaction that we aren’t endlessly going to be spending all our spare time at the garage? Fortunately there are a few tell-tale signs, with varying degrees of observation required. So even I should be able to spot some of these car clues from a mile off.

Don’t forget that MotorKwirks will find you a car in record time. Get in touch however you wish, and we will do all the hard work for you. If you refer a friend to us, there’s even more money to be saved. What are you waiting for?

Seems clean enough under the bonnet, but what's hiding beneath?
Seems reasonably clean enough under the bonnet, but what’s hiding beneath?

Underbody Care
This is one that most owners in my experience tend to miss. How often do you look at the underside of your car? Is it rusty? If so, don’t worry as there are many ways of treating rust, including some methods you may not have thought of. A clean car underbody is a sure sign of a car that has led a pampered life. Have a look at the suspension components and make sure that the metal hasn’t disintegrated. Cars can take a lot of abuse, and underbody rust is not the end of the world. But if the previous owner demonstrates this attention to detail, surely that can only be a good thing.

Matching Tyres
Again, I have mentioned this before, but it is that important. The car’s tyres are designed to work together. I don’t know of anyone who would think that wearing one trainer and one stiletto would be a good idea. Your car works in the same sort of way. It’s not terrible to use slightly different tyres on different axles. But one the same axle, the tyre on the right should match the tyre on the left. And preferably be a reasonably good brand too. There is a whole article on tyres elsewhere on this site that explains why they are so critical. Why not join the family, become a member and find out more?

Oil Colour
Oil really is the lifeblood of a car’s engine. And a car without a working engine isn’t going to do that great a job on the morning commute. We are forever being told to change our oil regularly to keep the engine in as happy a condition as possible, and this really does pay off. As per my earlier maintenance article, there is no need for this to be done too often, but there are certainly signs that reveal if this hasn’t been done often enough. The oil ideally should be a nice golden brown colour on the dipstick. And it should still be transparent, so that one can clearly see the dipstick markings. If the oil is black, the previous owner has been skimping on servicing, or they have used cheap oil. Or both. Not the best of starts.

Same engine with the internals exposed, and all seems to be fine in Mondeo-land.
Same engine with the internals exposed, and all seems to be fine in Mondeo-land.

Service History / MOT History
Most guides will quite rightly tell you about the importance of a service history. I would like to go one stage further and look at the MOT history. Servicing your car is not a legal requirement. Taking you car for an annual MOT is a legal requirement once the car celebrates its 3rd birthday. And you can check the MOT history of a car, whether it passed or not. You can also check the associated notes and advisories.

This means, if you’re buying an older model, you can see what the previous owner bothered to fix, and how meticulous they were about maintenance. This is turn can tell you how much work / money to put aside to get things back up and running. My advice would be to always budget in the cost of a service before committing to a car, because it just gives that extra peace of mind that your car isn’t going to suddenly let you down when you need it most.

Hopefully some of these key signs will give you more ammunition to accept or reject a prospective car. Finding a car can be a tough enough process to start with, which is why we can do it for you. But these quick tips will give you solid clues as to whether the car you’re looking at is going to be a diamond or a disaster. Thanks for reading!

What are your thoughts?