When you’re browsing for clean or salvage title cars for sale, you have no choice but to rely on the information and photos provided. The quickest way to get an overall idea of each vehicle’s condition is by looking at the images. You can learn a lot from these pictures, including what the interior and exterior look like. However, there are things you can miss if you’re not careful.
To help you select the best repo car for your budget, here are five things to look for in online auto photos.
1. Check for pooling liquids.
Look at the ground under and around the vehicle. Is it dry? Or do you notice spots of pooling liquid? It’s not always possible to see this, and even if you do, the liquid may be from another vehicle. That said, pooling water or oil can indicate a serious mechanical problem so it’s important to check up on it.
2. Look over the engine.
Check for photos of the engine, and if there aren’t any available, ask for them. You’ll want to know if engine damage, corroded connections or missing parts are a problem. Repossessions are sold as is, so any engine issues are your responsibility to fix. Unfortunately, some people tamper with the engines when they know their vehicle is going to be repossessed.
3. Locate the keys.
If you plan on driving the vehicle off the lot, you’ll need a set of keys. The best way to check for them is to see if they’re physically present in the photos. A lot of times, the keys are hanging around the steering wheel. Other times, they’re held in an office to prevent theft. If you do need to replace the keys, budget roughly $100-$400 a set.
4. Follow up on panel gaps.
Panel gaps don’t always indicate serious damage, but they are worth looking into, especially if the listing mentions “damage history” or “partial repair.” For example, a panel gap between the front panel and hood may mean that the vehicle was in a front-end collision that resulted in frame damage.
5. Make sure the wheels match up.
One last thing to check is the wheels. Many repossessed vehicles are not properly maintained, so it’s common to need new tires. But, some tire problems can indicate a more serious problem. For instance, misaligned wheels may be a sign of a bent or broken axle that will make the car inoperable.
At RepoFinder, we always recommend having an inspection done. It’s best to search for repossessions in your local area so that you can visit them in person. However, if you find a vehicle you love but can’t inspect it yourself, hire a third party service. This way, you’ll have the clarity you need to make a confident and competitive offer.