7 Interior Components Consumer Reports Suggests You Inspect Before Buying a Used Car

Buyers often look for vehicles with a reputation for reliability. But when it comes to used cars, consumers can’t just go by that. It’s necessary to inspect it to ensure you won’t get stuck with a vehicle that will need constant repairs soon after you buy it. 

The types of used vehicles on the market

Used car dealership where one should inspect before buying a used car.
Used car dealership | Getty Images Photographed by Steven Miric

When you start browsing the used car lots, you’ll come across two types of vehicles. The Certified Pre-owned cars have been inspected by factory technicians of cars from the same brand the dealership sells. If they pass that inspection, the car is ready to go with no significant issues. 

When it comes to “As Is,” you don’t get that official guarantee that there’s nothing wrong with the vehicle. If you buy a car and something goes wrong soon after, the seller isn’t responsible for it. It won’t be covered under warranty. 

When purchasing a car, you’ll want to inspect it before buying a used car. There are plenty of items to check on the inside and outside. Here, we focus on seven interior components to check before you buy, according to Consumer Reports.

1. Seats should be inspected before buying a used car

One of the first things you’ll see when you open the car door is the seats. Are they in good condition? Check for rips, tears, and wear in the cloth or leather material covering. Sit in them, and see how supportive and comfortable they are. Do this in all of the seats, not just the drivers. 

2. Odor

The next thing you should check is the smell of the interior. Look for any mold or mildew odor. If there is, there’s a chance that the vehicle has had flooding damage or water leaks. If you notice the smell, check under the mats to see if there are any stains indicating possible water damage. If you buy the car despite the smell, be aware that it might be hard to get rid of the odors. 

3. Roof lining

One thing many people don’t think to check is the lining covering the inside roof. The reason may be that not many know a sagging liner indicates something bigger. If there’s been water leaking through the sunroof or moonroof (on a relatively newer vehicle) it will stain the liner or make it start sagging in one area where the water was leaking. While you’re at it, check to see if the sunroof/moonroof works. Does it seal tight?

4. Braking and accelerator pedals should be inspected before buying a used car

These pedals can give you a good indication of the car’s condition. A car with low miles will not typically have much wear on the rubber covering the pedals. If you see unusual wear on the pedals and it doesn’t have that many miles on it, you can bet that it’s been driven by an aggressive driver, which might indicate other problems waiting in the wings to show up with the car. 

5. Interior controls 

Before you do any test driving, be sure to check all the controls in the vehicle. Turn the key in the ignition to the ‘Run’ position before it starts. Are all the lights coming on? Do they go off when you start the engine? If one of the warning lights stay on, you’ll want to know why. Check the air conditioner and heater to see how quickly they begin to cool down or heat the vehicle. Try out every button and control to see how well each part works. 

6. Audio system

Turn the radio system on and see how well the reception is on the AM/FM stations. At the same time, check the CD player (if it has one) and see how well it works. Bring a CD with you and test it out. Does it go in smoothly and eject quickly? Also, try connecting your MP3 player or phone to see how well the infotainment system works, if possible.

7. Trunk

You’ll want to check for more than just how much space it has. Look for any signs of water damage because the trunk is one place that will give it away. Are there water stains on the trunk liner? Does it smell musty or have a mold and mildew odor? Some vehicles have a spare tire wheel well under the trunk floor. If it has one, check to see if it has any water or rust. If there is, they may have been some water damage. 

What else can you do to avoid costly repairs?

One big thing you can do to avoid getting stuck with a lemon is to take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic to look it over for you. Don’t just take the dealership’s word for it. It will typically cost you around $100 to $200, but they should give you a detailed report of what came up in the inspection.

The report should indicate how much you may end up paying soon after you purchase it. If you feel the repairs don’t bother you much, you can still use that information to negotiate the vehicle’s price. 

Buying a used car doesn’t have to be that much of a hassle. As long as you inspect it and have a professional check it over, you’ll have an idea of what you may be getting into. Otherwise, you may be in for many headaches with hefty repair bills. 

RELATED: Tips for Buying a Reliable Used Car From Consumer Reports