How To Buy A Good Used Car: A Detailed Guide For You

Posted by at 3 November 2014, at 21 : 33 PM

How To Buy A Good Used Car: A Detailed Guide For You

Here’s a very detailed guide for you on how to buy a good used car.

First and foremost is the overall visual impression. Does it look beat up? Does it look rusty? Has it been repainted? Has it been in an accident?

Here are a few things you should know. If there is a slight colour mismatch then that panel has been repainted. So look at all the edges around the vehicle. Check everywhere for “over spray” where they didn’t tape it quite right and a little bit of paint got on the trim.

Stand back and look down each side of the body for waves and ripples. If it is an older car, look to see if it’s been repaired round the dog legs or wheel wells. Check to see if all the headlights and front end parts, including the bumper, seem aligned. Check the gaps around the doors. Make sure the bonnet and the boot lid and all that kind of stuff seem to be aligned properly. Then open and close all the doors, make sure they align and shut properly. Grab the door, and lift it up and down a bit to see if there is any wear in the hinges.

Next, check the odometer. See if the vehicle looks like it has as many kilometres as it is claiming to have. There are lots of ways to tell if the odometer has been turned back or if the instrument cluster has been switched. Look real close at the inside of the cluster for fingerprints on the other side of the clear panel or on the black panel at the back for marks in the dust where it has been disturbed or even someone’s hair that shouldn’t be in there. That’s a deadset giveaway. Another thing to do is to look for oil change stickers. These will usually be mounted along the edge of your windscreen, but sometimes you will find them inside the door or maybe even under the bonnet. Make sure the number on the oil change sticker is a lower number for kilometer or miles than what is displayed on the dash. Check the amount of wear on the brake pedal, Look for a worn seat. Seats that have done a lot of mileage if not worn through are quite often wrinkly all over. Don’t just kick the tyres, check them all for even wear. If they are worn on the edges then you know there is an alignment problem or worn steering joints.

Look for damage to the hub caps or rims to see if it’s hit a curb. Now turn the wheels all the way in one direction take a peek underneath, turn the wheels all the way in the other direction and do the same. Check the condition of the CV joints for cracks and grease leakage, as that will cost you big time. Check your shock absorbers to see if they are oily because that will mean they are leaking. Then check the windscreen for chips or cracks. Remember, they can always get bigger.

Open the radiator cap and check for oil floating in there. If there is a leak in the head gasket or in the automatic transmission cooler that’s in the radiator, then you will find motor oil or transmission oil in the radiator contents. Check the colour of the oil. If it’s black, that’s ok, but just make sure it is not a light brown or a creamy white colour, because that could mean that there are problems with the head gasket or even a cracked head. Check the transmission oil to make sure it is bright red and clear and doesn’t have a burnt smell to it.

Check the battery to make sure it has been maintained. Unless it’s one of those no maintenance batteries, you can check the water levels and most have a date on them as well. Check the inside of the exhaust pipe. There should always be a tiny bit of something in there, but if you rub around in it and your finger comes out black, unless it is a diesel, that means it hasn’t been running right and is burning way too much petrol. If it is a diesel, then that’s normal.

Start the engine and listen for ticks, clicks, and knocking sounds. Listen for signs of a faulty water pump or alternator bearings. Carefully remove the oil filler cap and check the blow by. All engines have blow by, but it will be more apparent in an older or worn out motor. If you see lots of coloured smoke, or you hear it puffing, that could mean that one or more cylinders have bad compression. If there is a lot of smoke coming out, it means the engine has done a lot of kilometres/miles and is very tired. If there is only a little blow by, that’s ok. Put your hand on the motor and see that it runs smoothly. If there is a bad cylinder, it will give off a kind of tut tut tut sound and be a little bit shaky. That’s not good! If you can get to the radiator, it is very important to check the bottom of it. That’s the part where everything rots out.

If the car is air conditioned, you will need to check the air conditioner radiator as well. Make sure you check them both for leakages too. You might as well check the sound system while you are at it if it’s got air conditioning, check that too. While the air conditioner is on listen to the compressor in the engine bay to see if the clutch is clicking off and on fairly frequently. If it is, that means it’s low on air conditioning gas called freon. If there’s no gas left, it won’t turn on at all, because there is a switch that won’t allow it to turn on when all the gas is gone. Check your transmission from the side view and underneath for oil leaks.

Check the brake hoses for cracks or leaks. Crawl underneath and look for engine oil leaks like rusted out oil pans or lots of oil leaking where the motor meets the transmission, at the rear main bearing seal. That’s the hardest and probably the most expensive one to fix. It requires removing the transmission to do that, and in some vehicles you have to remove the motor as well. While you’re under the car, take a look at the frame and chassis and everywhere else to make sure it hasn’t driven over curbs and rocks, etc., and been damaged by a previous owner. While still under the car, check for how rusty the petrol and brake lines are. Look to see how rusty the petrol tank is, and whether or not there are damp spots where it has been sweating and/or leaking. Check the exhaust system, including the catalytic converter, for rust and holes, and repairs.

Check to see if it has a spare tyre and if the rear window wiper works. Check the hand brake and horn. Look for leaks on the engine, they could mean bad gaskets or seals.

Ask when or if the timing belt has been changed. Check to see if the driver’s seat slides back and forth easily. If it’s jammed, that could mean the car was in an accident and the mechanism is broken. Check that there’s no damage around the keyhole or outside door locks meaning the vehicle could have been stolen at some stage. Check the ownership papers. You want to be sure it wasn’t bought from an auto wreckers or insurance company and fixed up. That could mean that the vehicle has a lower value because the vehicle was a total write off.

Now go for a drive. You want to get out on the highway and find a flat spot where there is no traffic, and let go of the steering wheel and see if it pulls hard in either direction. If it does then that tells you there is an alignment problem. See if the steering wheel shakes, suggesting no wheel balance or bent rims. Listen for howling sounds coming from the wheels, which means bad wheel bearings, find yourself a rough piece of road with lots of potholes or cracks and listen for noises coming out of the front end. Sounds that will warn you of bad ball joints or suspension. Of course, they could be just simple things like bad stabiliser links which are cheap and easy to fix.

Try to listen also for noises coming from the rear end. Some cars have stabiliser links in the rear end and of course, they all have shock absorbers. Accelerate hard and see that the motor responds smoothly and doesn’t mis-fire. Try to get a good feel of how the transmission shifts and make sure there is no clunking when you put it into drive or reverse. Also, listen for funny shifting or whirring sounds or patterns when you’re driving.

If the engine seems kind of sluggish and doesn’t want to accelerate, there may be problems with the catalytic converter. If there is a problem with the catalytic converter, that could be a sign of costly repairs to the motor coming up. If the vehicle is front wheel drive, drive slowly around some sharp corners with the steering turned all the way in either direction, and listen for clicking sounds coming from the CV joints. If they’re clicking, they are beyond repair and will have to be replaced. Check the wheel bearings by doing medium speed turns in each direction and listen for humming noises coming from the front wheels. They don’t always hum in a straight line, but that means they are nearing their end.

Check the lights on the dashboard, and make sure that your warning lights are not on and of course, keep an eye on the oil and temperature gauges while you’re driving.

Now if you like the vehicle, and you’ve done your research on that model of vehicle, you will know how much it should worth. You can try to work out a price that you think is reasonable. Private sales are usually anywhere up to a thousand dollars cheaper, but when you buy from a dealer, you should get some kind of warranty. You can also find out if the vehicle still has some factory warranty or some extended warranty that someone may have purchased and if it is transferable with ownership.

A lot of people think it’s important to get a one owner vehicle. That’s usually NOT the best option. The biggest advantage of having more than one owner is that every time it changed hands, the new owner usually got things fixed on it. Sometimes one owner vehicles can have a heap of things wrong with them. You should search sites on the internet to find out what kind of faults are common to that particular model. Things like faulty manifold gaskets or head gaskets, exhaust gaskets and air conditioning leaks. You can find whether the transmissions have a tendency to go bad etc., then take a look and ask questions.

Another option when buying a used car is car auctions. You can get lucky sometimes and pick up a good car really cheap. The downside is that you never know what you are getting, because the only time you can see it running is as it’s driving past you. You won’t be able to go for a drive and test all the other things I mentioned. So if you do want to buy from a car auction, make sure you know what you’re doing or take someone with you who has experience. It is possible that you could actually save another thousand dollars compared to buying it privately.

Finally and most importantly, do your research and find out if there is any money owing on the vehicle. if you buy it and there’s money owing on it, you could very well be stuck with someone else’s debt, and have a debt collector take the car away from you or have to pay their debt back.

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