Buying a used car does not necessarily have to be a blind date from hell. Although it’s always difficult to really know what’s under the hood, unless you are buying the car from a trustworthy friend or family member, there are things to watch out for that may give off the smell of a lemon. Here are 10 things to consider when purchasing a used car.
1. Check the Chassis
Have the vehicle lifted by a mechanic you trust who can inspect the chassis for oil leaks and cracks. If possible, have the chassis washed so you can better inspect it for leaks as some damage may hide underneath all that dirt. As cars start to go, the chassis usually goes first. If the chassis is in good shape, chances are you’ll get some
decent life out of the car.
2. Tap the Car Body
If it sounds like the car is padded, chances are the vehicle has been repainted due to an accident. This can lead to structural weakness in the car that may soon haunt you.
3. Test Drive the Car
This one’s a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people will just go by looks alone. Notice the ride and the feel. Does it pull to one side? Does it vibrate upon braking? Does the engine run rough? Does the transmission slip on acceleration? Listen to the engine for any give away sounds. If it’s a manual, check the clutch for any slippage.
4. Check the Interior
Check the car seats, interior carpeting, dashboard and other inside features to see if they’ll need repairs. If it’s something you can live with like a coffee stain, no problem. If there’s a serious mold issue, however, your car may give you health concerns.
5. Have the Mechanic Check the Engine
If you can do this it will be very helpful. Although some problems can be given away just by a test drive, others are more mysterious and may take the tinkering of a mechanic to notice. Your engine is the heart and soul of the vehicle. Make sure it’s a good one.
6. Note the Rust
Some rust is just a fact of life, especially if the car was driven in areas with heavy winter conditions where a lot of salt is used on the roads. However, serious rust problems may cause the car to disintegrate underneath you. Check for rust underneath the door hinges and around the frame of the car. If the frame rusts to death, you’ll be out of a car. If you can have a body shop inspect it, so much the better.
7. Check the Heater and Air Conditioning
If you are buying the car in the summer, drive it during the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. If the air conditioner is broken, it’s your prerogative if you want it fixed, depending on your comfort level and the climate that you live. Heat, however, is central, as you don’t want to be driving a virtual icebox in the middle of winter.
8. Check the History of the Car
You’ll need the VIN (Vehicle Identification number). There are some on-line services that you can use for this. Such a report may give you some indication regarding the vehicle’s history including possible accidents, use as prior rental car, etc. but be aware, if a car were in an accident and it not reported to an insurance company it will most likely not show up on any report you get. (Accident cars can get fixed up quickly and cheaply and dumped back on the market. So a “clean” report is no guarantee that there are no problems with the car.)
9. Make Sure the Seller’s Name is On the Title
The last thing you want to end up with is a vehicle that has been stolen, as you may be held liable and the seller may be off the hook. Ask to see the title and make sure it’s legitimate.
10. Research the Type of Car You are Buying
Some models are just bad models that will cause you hassles, whether you buy them new or used. Read online reviews and talk with friends and family members about their experiences with similar cars. You don’t want to end up with a model that has a history of blowing its engine every 50,000 miles. Do your research before you buy.