If you have an older car that needs a lot of work to keep it running, you may be thinking about buying a new one. When that is not financially possible for you, a good alternative is to buy a newer, used vehicle. There is always a risk, however, that a used car may end up needing just as much work (or even more) than your current car. To reduce that risk, when you find a used car you want to buy, take it to a trusted repair shop and have it checked out. But before spending money on multiple vehicle inspections, you can do some inspecting on your own. Here are my recommendations:
1. It is usually better to buy a vehicle from a private party than from a car lot. Especially if the car is being sold by the original owner and they have records of the vehicle services that have been done. Vehicles that are sitting on used car lots generally were purchased at auction and will not have their service history with them.
2. Buying the vehicle from the owner also allows you to see/observe how that person may have taken care of the vehicle. For example, if the car is at a personal residence when you look at it, how is the upkeep there? Where is the residence? Near the beach? Possible hidden corrosion. In the hills? Possible extra wear and tear on the drive train and brakes.
3. Service paper work is valuable in order to determine that the important services were done at the right time intervals. This is the most reliable way to determine the likelihood of the vehicle lasting many more miles for the least amount of dollars. Poorly maintained cars cost more over their lifetime. Without the service history, you have no way of knowing, for example, when the oil was last changed.
4. You can inspect the exterior of the vehicle. If the tire tread is worn unevenly, this suggests possible suspension repairs will be needed. Look at the body from different angles in the sun and shade. If the shade of paint looks different on the fender versus the door, for example, it could indicate accident repair.
5. Look under the hood. In the engine compartment, a battery with corrosion, white or green on the terminals alerts you to the possibility that a new battery is needed.
6. Check the vehicle fluids – transmission, power steering, and brake system. Dark or black in color is not good. Engine coolant should not be rusty.
7. Finally, drive the vehicle both around town at slow speeds and on the freeway at higher speed. Any vibrations or noises could mean something is worn out. If you feel vibrations when applying the brakes, it means the brakes need attention.
If the vehicle passes your inspection, then it is a good candidate for a more thorough and complete inspection by a professional.
Donna McCord, Owner
Dean’s Automotive, Inc.