It may sound obvious but it's always best to try and check your potential purchase in dry weather as the rain hides a multitude of sins in the bodywork department as can the dark or poor light and of course the snow! You may laugh but we have sold cars to people who after signing up and paying actually asked what colour the car was because it was under 5 inches of snow and believe it or not had no test drive! Its a good job we were honest dealers that's for sure.
You should test a vehicle from stone cold as you want to know how easy it starts up or if it smokes when cold. It has been known for dodgy dealers to tow start one of those poor starting smoky vehicles before the designated test drives so the buyer would be completely unaware of any problems and of course when up to running temperature some cars will appear to be fine.So before you start the car pop the bonnet and feel if the engine is cold, if its not then ask why it has been started before you got there? You also want to test drive it enough distance to get the vehicle up to its normal working temperature to check for overheating and that all the heating system is working correctly.
This is our tried and tested procedure when trying a car.
If buying from a dealer just turn up, don’t make an appointment, it will only give the seller time to cover up any problems there could be. Wander around all the vehicles to look at the quality,the prices and the general feel of the place, if your satisfied that they seem trustworthy and you spot a Citroen that you have some interest in ask the salesman for the keys and sometime alone with the chosen vehicle.The less distractions the better, then tell him that if you want to take it further you will come and find him.
First lift the bonnet up and check the condition of the oil and water also check in oil filler cap for signs of over heating problems, some times there is a build up of a milky oil residue inside the oil filler cap.
Then start up the vehicle and leave it ticking over so it can go through its warm up procedure.
Go all round the car starting on the drivers side wing, check that it lines up with the drivers door and around the bumper / headlight.All the gaps between all the panels should be about the same. Also look at the paint work for runs or poor repairs.
Look for places where paint should not be, what we would call under mask or overspray. Whilst at the wings check the tyres for wear and the sidewall for damage then inspect the wheel for any kerbing.
Now check the gaps between drivers door and rear door/wing.
Open the driver’s door and check the door card (trim) and test any switch gear on that panel such as electric sunroof, windows or mirrors etc, sit in the drivers seat and test the seat especially if it is electric, look at the general wear in that area including sun visor and head lining (often overlooked but can be stained or damaged).
Now check all the guages and see if they are working although do remember the temperature guage could still take some time to start registering. Check all the other buttons and switch gear, indicators, headlights, make sure the air conditioning is ice cold, it could be winter when you buy but you will miss it if its not working come the summer.
Inspect the ashtray and lighter as a non smoked in vehicle is far better, check door shuts for signs of ware or paintwork.
Now move to the back door and repeat the procedure.
Check any rear seats for wear and operation.
Look at the rear wing even inside the fuel filler cap for signs of paintwork once you have checked the rear wing and rear tyre and wheel then crouch down and look down the side of the vehicle generally from the back wing to the front looking for any trolley dents (minor dents usually gained in supermarket car parks!) or poor repairs. Do the same from front to back, also look under the vehicle for signs of oil leaks, water leaks and exhaust condition then with all the doors shut stand back if possible about three feet and look at that side of the vehicle for any signs of poor paintwork such as slightly different coloured panels.
Do the same with the roof then check paintwork and alignment of boot/tailgate then open it then check the rear carpet for any wear or dampness. Many vehicles suffer from water ingress around the rear light clusters. Then lift the carpet and check the rear floor for any signs of repair, check the spare wheel and tools including locking wheel nut at the same time.
Now you need to repeat the same procedure down the passenger side don’t forget to check glass and lights for any damage, once back at the front end of the vehicle check the temperature guage again and turn the vehicle engine off.
Now is the time to check under the bonnet for any oil leaks or nasty smells, re-check the condition of the oil, remembering if checking the water again that you could get scolded if the water is hot and under pressure, look at all the panels under the bonnet and including the bonnet for signs of repair, check for new parts such as grills, headlights, radiator or slam panels. New parts or panels could be a sure indication of previous front end damage.
Once you have finished restart the vehicle and give it another once over, finally shut the bonnet and make sure the gaps are even to both front wings stand back and look at whole front end for signs of poor repairs and of coloured panels then if you are happy with all you have seen and heard turn the vehicle off and check the remote keys there should be at least one remote plus a spare key. Check that all the doors and boot/tailgate operate correctly with the keys or the remotes.
If you are interested in proceeding with the purchase of your new Citroen find the salesman and ask to see the V5 (log book) and the service book. Once you have satisfied yourself that all the paper work is in order then proceed to the test drive.
If you are confident enough it would be best to drive the vehicle from the off as some vehicles can misbehave when not up to full temperature and the salesman may wish to hide this by driving first. Once in the driving seat test the wear and indeed where the bite of the clutch starts. Too high or too low could mean a clutch replacement soon. If you are unsure about the clutch try going up a hill in a higher gear than normal and see if it starts "slipping". Listen for any unusual noises whilst stationary test the power steering on full lock left and right. When you are on the move check all the gears even if it means going further than round the block, don’t forget reverse gear when you get the opportunity. Whilst driving check the steering does not pull to either side but remember most roads have a camber that drops to each kerb and this can affect direction.
Test the brakes for pulling to one side or the other as well. If your happy (and never let the salesman know how happy you are as he will always be harder to deal with) then back to the garage for negotiations.
If your not happy with certain points, and the salesman agrees to rectify the faults make sure it’s all agreed in writing on a proper used car order form and then make sure you re-test drive and that your 100% happy before taking delivery or parting with money.