Hiding a million sins: What's underneath that paint job?

24 Jul 15

It could be argued that there is an art to buying a used car. Anyone can read some stats off a manufacturer's website and perhaps watch an episode or two of a certain British car review show, but when it comes to choosing a pre-owned vehicle, you need to take things into your own hands. 

This can mean not only shopping around for a good deal, but also doing your research by looking into getting a CarHistory report.

Whether it's a cause of misleading mileage with odometer rollback or perhaps crouching tiger, hidden finance with financial encumbrance, a CarHistory report can put you in the know before you buy. 

Even once you've got your hard facts in hand, it's still a good idea to visit the vehicle in person for an inspection or two. Here's one of the key things to look out for when you pay a visit to your potential new ride.

A bit of a touchy subject

Before we sell our house or car, it's generally good practice to give things a decent clean inside and out, but could a fresh coat of paint or a touch up be a smokescreen for other issues?

While this may not always be the case, paint can be used to disguise signs of rust on the bodywork - which can be usually spotted by bubbling paint. 

Some sellers could also try to use what's known as a filler to mask rust or even out a dent, but if you're suspicious about a patchy paint, you can detect filler by running a magnet across the area.

The New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) explains that the magnet won't stick to filler, as it would the rest of the car, but to also be aware that filler containing iron dust will negate the usefulness of this test1

You can generally spy a new paint job by a slight contrast in paint texture or finish, that could denote recent bodywork on the car. In addition, keep an eye out for small areas around the perimeters of car doors where paint may have spilled over slightly. 

An honest seller will be upfront about any recent work the car has had done, but it still pays to ask if you aren't sure. When it comes to making the right decision, it's worth judging a car by its paint job. 

1​NZTA, Tips for buying a used car. Accessed June 15, 2015.