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What to watch out for when buying a used car

Purchase of a used car is not an inconsiderable investment. At MAMA CAR, there are only first-class cars and 90% of them are from the first owner. We verify the car origin, its service history and protect our customers against dishonest traders or fraudsters. But what if you are buying a used car elsewhere? We have prepared some tips on what to watch out for when buying a used car.

“A check for used cars is provided for the customers of MAMA CAR!”

1. Checking documents and basic identifiers of the car

According to the car identifiers, you will know whether you are buying a car with the parameters stated in the certificate and if you are really buying the car recorded on them.

Checking the year of production of the car

The actual year can be determined from the codes that can be found, for example, on the windows, seat belts, seats, plastic parts, aggregates, ABS, air conditioning, alternator, fluid containers, etc.

Checking the car windows

If all the windows have the same codes, everything is alright. If one or more panes have a different code, it means that the window has been changed. This happens only after an accident or glass breakage. Anyway, focus on that part of the body and check it carefully. It does not matter whether the individual windows were produced in consecutive years, not even in the case of a new car produced at the turn of the year.

Checking the safety belts

The production date of a safety belt may be marked in different ways. You can find it on the cloth label or plastic plate at the bottom where the belt is tied. The actual characters may be printed on the cloth or imprinted in the plastic plate.

Checking the VIN - vehicle identification number

VIN code is the most important car identification number. It must correspond with the information on the certificate. The VIN code can be found mostly imprinted in the engine compartment (e.g. on the muffler cover, called a hat), on the bulkhead, between the engine, and the cab of the car, on the floor or in the trunk. Check if it has been modified, tampered or if someone manipulated with the component on which the VIN code is imprinted.

Check the VIN under the windscreen

Not all cars have it but it occurs more and more frequently. Its exchange and falsifying are consuming and costly. If the car has it, check it.

Check the type plate of the car

In most cases, it can be found in the engine compartment or on the pillar of the car. Again, check all the data and compare with the vehicle registration certificate. If the label is missing, damaged or non-originally attached, it is more probable that there is something wrong with the car (origin, previous accidents...). If the label is missing, the transport department may refuse to register such a car.

The type and serial number of the car engine

Both data is imprinted on the engine block. Compare it with the vehicle registration certificate. Only the engine type must be stated on it (applicable to certificates issued after 01/07/2001, until then also the engine serial number must be stated there). If it is possible, check also the serial number of the engine. Again, focus on whether the characters have been manipulated or if someone has tampered with the surface on which the number is imprinted. If the engine number is damaged, rusty or the surface was obviously manipulated, do not buy the car. However, it is possible that the engine was completely replaced, which is alright according to actual legislation, and you can buy such a car.

The actual year of production

The so-called rejuvenation of a car is also a trick to make the car more attractive. After the Act No. 56/2001 Coll. In the Conditions for the Operation of Vehicles on the Road Network allowed that the actual year of production of a car needs no longer to be recorded and this figure has been replaced by the date of its first registration. So it has enabled the “rejuvenation” of cars that were imported individually or whose vehicle certificate has been duplicated. Serious used car dealers provide their clients with a guarantee of the production year, MAMA is, of course, one of them.

2. Verification of the car origin

None of us wants to drive a car with an uncertain origin. If you are seriously considering buying a used car, check its origin. It is the most important but also most difficult task in reviewing a used car.
It is dangerous to buy a car just “on the street”, for example through an advertisement, from dealers, importers and unprofessional used car dealers - they will not guarantee the origin!
For verification of the car’s origin, please refer to professionals who guarantee the origin of the cars, or buy a car from a dealer who checks the car for you. In the Czech Republic, only the largest used car dealers do it regularly and systematically - MAMA CAR is one of them. The customer gets a certificate from an independent company CEBIA (CEBIA report) and it is also possible to have the car checked at an authorized service centre.

Verification of the car in the database - the website of the Ministry of the Interior offers the opportunity to verify the car in the database of stolen cars of the Czech Republic on or through SMS. The information is obtained after entering one of the four data: License plate number, engine number, VIN and chassis numbers.

3. How not to be tricked when buying a car

There are several basic points that you should check when buying a used car. For example, the car can be encumbered with a lease or lien. To avoid becoming a victim of fraud, it is necessary to find out whether the car is owned by a third party. Some data can be determined from the vehicle certificate, but some only by a specialist.
Check the vehicle certificate - in the past, only the holder of the car was recorded there, not the owner. This causes problems today, because you can buy a car from the holder of the vehicle certificate, but the owner may be a completely different person, such as a leasing company.


4. Stolen car

Do not hesitate to pay charges for the verification of the identification symbols or the verification in the country of the origin before buying a used car. Especially if it is a vehicle individually imported from abroad! The verification charge is much lower than what you would lose if the stolen car was seized.
  • Sale without permission of the husband / wife §
Requires the approval of the spouse with the car sale. If it is a joint property of the spouses, it is necessary to have a partner's consent by law.

5. Checking the technical condition

Check the used car carefully!

First try to find the product labels or stickers with the service data (e.g. mileage during the last oil change). Compare the data with the current speedometer reading.

Used car paint

  • Check the colour and shade of the used car paint in daylight or under night lightning of a dealer on all parts of the body. An illuminated area in a used car dealership is advantageous!
  • Check traces of the sanding of caulking materials under the paint, small grits, sprayed garbage, small holes, look for small edges in the paint in bends and around sealing and finishing strips, e.g. doors, windows, on the wings.
  • Compare the size of the joints (gaps) between the different parts of the body - parts must fit and the joints between them must be equally broad.
  • Check that the paint on the bolts that connect the various parts of the body is not damaged. If they were loosened by a wrench, it indicates that the part was replaced or repaired.
  • Look around lights, turn indicators and draught stripping and search for slight paint sprayings. When spraying the wing, only a few people dismount the lights or draught stripping, so traces of previous painting remain there.

The original joints and car body sealing

  • Check the joints (welds) which are covered with plastic sealant in production. They protect the body from leaking water and dirt. After repairs, it is usually not possible to reinstate it to its original condition, the sealant is rough, irregular and often made of a different material.
  • Open the engine and the trunk, do not be afraid to remove all carpets, plastic covers and spare wheels, so you can clearly see the inner joints of the body and skeleton. Continue to all parts of the car. Check both sides simultaneously and compare them with each other. The joints are made mechanically, so everything should be symmetrical.

Interior of a used car

  • Check the condition of the upholstery and the extent of damage of seats (sagging, stains, burnt holes etc.).
  • Check the wear of the car steering wheel, pedals, clutch, brake and gear lever - they should not be too worn out with the mileage of 50,000 km. The structure of the surface material must be seen. With a mileage of more than 250,000 km, the gear lever cover is noticeably damaged. The pedals are completely worn out. The actual mileage can be roughly estimated according to the wear rate.

Was the car flooded?

  • Check carefully the space under the plastic parts in the interior whether there are remains of sand or mud.
  • Sniff the upholstery if you do not detect the smell of mud and look for stains on the seats.
  • Water causes the isolation to loosen and start to oxidize. As a result, electrically controlled parts often do not work.

Electric car parts

  • Check carefully even the basic things, such as if all lights are working, including brake and turning indicators.

Tyres and axle of a car

  • Check the front and rear axles - any atypical camber is suspect. As a consequence, the tyres gather incorrectly, which endangers safety. Asymmetrically worn tyres may indicate defective wheel balancing and defects in the shock absorbers or axles (i.e. the car has been in an accident).

Inflated airbags

  • After turning the ignition key to first position, all lights light. They should gradually turn off (including the airbag light). The airbag cover must fit perfectly (same gaps on the sides, the middle part is hard when pushing it), there also should be a sign “Airbag”.

Car engine

The engine of a used car tells you a lot at first sight. In combination with a test drive, you should be able to check that everything is in order.
  • Look again at the welds and bolts in the engine compartment to check that the car has not had a crash.
  • Open the bottle with water when the engine is still cold and look underneath the cap. When it is covered with emulsion, it means that the oil is seeping into the water or that the head gasket is wrong.
  • Remove the cap of the oil cap and turn it over. When it is covered with emulsion, it means that the water is flowing into the oil or oil has not been changed properly. When the cap smells of petrol, it means that petrol is leaking from the mechanical pump.

Exhaust smoke of a used car

The colour of the smoke coming out of the engine after warming can identify many problems even without measuring devices.
  • Blue smoke - oil leaks to the cylinder through piston rings or valves do not seal. The engine is heavily worn.
  • Black smoke (diesel) - the engine is probably much worn or the pump is poorly adjusted.
  • White smoke - water from the cooling system is leaking into the combustion chamber. It may be a bad head gasket or a cracked engine cylinder head.

6. Test drive

Used car engine

  • Start moving slowly. The running of the engine should be smooth with no jerking. Accelerate slowly up to maximum speed. The engine should move with no delay or loss of power. If the engine is equipped with a turbocharger, it takes a while before it starts to work. Then the performance should increase noticeably and smoothly.

Used car transmission

  • Gear shifting must be easy, smooth and accurate. Test it while driving slowly as well as at maximum speed.

Automatic transmission

  • Gear shifting should not make any sound signalizing that the response was immediate. Shifts between individual gears should be smooth without shocks. If shocks occur, there is a problem with the clutch or with a mechanical system in the gearbox.


  • While driving on a straight stretch, put your hands off the steering wheel for a moment - you will see if the car is "pulling" to the sides. Try the same thing while accelerating or slowing down.

Car brakes

  • Verify the effectiveness of the brakes when braking at high speeds. If you hear unusual noises, or even bumps or vibrations, expect a big investment in repairs. It is important to determine whether the brakes do not “wither”, so if repeated braking does not diminish their effectiveness. Release the steering wheel for a while on a flat stretch and brake. If the car "does not hold the mark”, it is due to bad brakes, axle mount, faulty geometry or worn tires.

Chassis and shock absorbers of a used car

  • Try a simple test before driving. Push the wing above the shock absorber as if you wanted to make the car swing. It should not continue to swing! When stopping suddenly, it should not swing or tend to move backwards. Shocks or vibrations caused by road unevenness should not influence the actual driving. This may be caused by worn out hinge arm, steering swivel pins, age resistor etc.


  • For testing half-shafts, it is necessary to choose a place where you can turn on both sides. Start slowly moving in a circle and gradually pick up speed. No sounds should be produced by that, and you should especially not hear sounds similar to skipping of a chain on the sprocket. If this happens, the half-shaft is faulty.

Wheel bearings

  • The wear of bearing causes an audible “hum”. While driving, slowly turn the steering wheel so that the weight of the car is transmitted to one side. Listen to the difference between the sounds when loading and unloading - worn bearing will produce a strong “hum” while loaded.

Exhaust and catalytic convertor of a car

  • A failure in the exhaust pipe is demonstrated by jingling - metallic clinking sound. It signals that the inner parts are damaged (car fails the MOT).

7. How and where to buy a used car

Choosing and purchasing a used car takes a lot of time. If you have access to the Internet, make use of it. Professional car dealers, such as MAMA CAR, offer cars on the Internet. You can choose from thousands of cars without getting up from your chair.
This allows you to avoid amateurs, private importers and fraudsters who sponge off the lack of information clients have concerning used car purchase. The majority of used car offered on the Internet include photos of the car and its detailed description. You can clearly and quickly compare the differences in price of individual kinds and types of cars, mileage, age etc.
To buy a used car, choose a dealer with quality facilities. Take advantage of a thorough test drive. Prefer sellers who own cars directly and are not just sales agents! MAMA CAR owns 85% of the cars and 90% of them is from the first owner and with a service history!

8. When buying a used car, check the registration

Go through the vehicle registration and vehicle registration certificate thoroughly.
  • The VIN, number of engine, number of engine type and colour of the car must correspond with the data in the vehicle registration!
  • Find out where the car was sold as new - whether in the Czech Republic or abroad. If it was imported, have it examined by a company that provides these services (e.g. Cebia - common cooperation with our company) and subsequently guarantees the origin of the car.
Check if the vehicle registration is a duplicate, it is always a problem, especially if it has been issued because the original was lost or damaged. An owner often wants a duplicate deliberately so he can hold back the car origin, the number of previous owners, using the car as a taxi or at a driving school. The duplicate does not provide information as to whether the car was leased or paid in instalments. Watch out for often changing owner, especially during the first months (weeks) after car registration in the Czech Republic.

9. Request all keys, service and manuals

Make sure that you get all keys from the used car that the previous owner handed over when selling the car. Do not forget the keys from any security devices, such as the lock gear! Ask for all the car documents. The service book provides information on how well and how regularly the previous owner took care of the car.
We hope that the advice on what to watch out for when buying a car helped. If you have a question or want a used car that has been verified thoroughly, visit MAMA CAR and our specialists will help you.

More information on free line 800 50 00 50