“If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Planning On Buying A Used Car? Go Prepared!

With the soaring prices of cars nowadays, which by the way is mainly the result of rising production costs and the addition of numerous automotive technologies, people are oftentimes backed into a wall and are forced to buy used cars instead. There’s no problem with buying a used car. I’m all for it, as a matter of fact. I’ve bought my share of used cars, two to be exact. One I bought when I graduated from high school, and the other was when I first started working. So long as you know what you’re doin’ you’ll be able to get a car that’s as good as a brand new one.

Some people take one long and lingering look at a car and they immediately judge it to be in good/bad condition. If they’re lucky enough they could be right on the money, but if they’re not, they’ll end up with a lousy car. So, if you can’t bring a mechanic friend along with you to check a used car for you, then it’d be best if you are armed with the knowledge of what to look out for. I browsed the Net and found site managed by the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles and this is a few of their recommendations when buying a used car.

Exterior Checklist:

• Check for nicks and scratches
• Look for ripples, waves, poorly fitted panels and mismatched colors.
• Check for bubbles along molding or chrome (indicates rust underneath).
• Check for welding spots on the frame (serious accident or repairs).
• Stand back approximately 10 to 15 feet from the car and see if the car is level.
• Check the shocks by pushing down on each corner of the car and letting go.
• Check the tires (sidewall cracks, uneven tire wear, brake fluid leakage)
• Look under the car for: oil spots, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, or shock absorber fluid.
• Open the hood and check belts and hoses for cracks or wear.
• Pull out the oil dipstick. Oil should not be gummy or grayish or smell burnt.

Interior Checklist

• Check the mileage
• Compare mileage on service stickers (door jamb/under hood) to the odometer reading.
• Check the condition of the seats, belts and carpeting.
• Check the windows to see if they open and close easily.
• Check the brake, accelerator and clutch -- should work smoothly, no strange noises.
• Check all exterior lights and flashers on the car
• Start the engine and check the warning lights and gauges
• Make certain that the air conditioning blows very cold air.
• Check the glove box for the owner's manual.

Test Drive Checklist

• Drive the car on hills, highways and in stop-and-go traffic.
• Start the engine and press down on the brake.
• Listen for noises which could indicate engine problems.
• Check the lights on the control panels--be sure they all work.
• Clutch should engage and disengage smoothly without grabbing
• Does the car bounce or bang over small bumps?
• Check the temperature gauge to see if it shows a high reading
• Cut off the engine. Then restart the engine -- does it restart easily?
• Check the tailpipe. Are there any black, sooty oil deposits?
• Does the odometer mileage seem to match the physical condition of the car?
• Check odometer for scratches, misaligned digits, digits that stick.

Again, those are just a few guidelines. As for me, I always come prepared with a checklist. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy with me now. What I did was search online, again, and fortunately enough, I was able to find a very comprehensive one made by a Mr. Todd R. Haverstock. Here’s the link to that site – Used Car FAQ. If you follow all of those, it would seem like you’re a mechanic yourself. And one last thing, don’t let yourself be bullied or talked into buying a car that you really don’t want. Salespeople do that, so be wary. Hope this helps.