Kick-the-tires definition

(idiomatic, colloquial) To inspect something to ensure it meets expected standards or has favored characteristics, typically before committing to purchasing or otherwise selecting it.
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1935 April, Motor, volume 63, number 4, page 39.

"Kick the tires and look serious" recognized as first rule for used car appraisal; 1915.

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1939 October, Kenneth F. Gilbert, "Automobile Salesmen Won't Tell", Consumers' Digest, volume 6, number 4, page 42.

One of the things you wait most eagerly to hear a salesman say is the amount of the allowance. A good salesman will deliberately build up your suspense. He will start your engine, kick the tires, run his hand over the upholstery, stick his head under the hood, but, if your fenders are undented and the glass unbroken […]

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Alternative Forms

Alternative Form of kick-the-tires - kick-the-wheels

Origin of kick-the-tires

  • Early 20th century. Tires on early automobiles were made of thin rubber and were sometimes of poor quality, hence a prospective buyer might kick them to see how thick they were or if they would deflate.

    From Wiktionary