Buying a Used Car: Things to Check Before Buying

Shopping for a used car requires much more evaluation and smarts on your end and since used cars sold by private sellers, and even some dealerships, don’t come with warranties you should definitely do your homework. Besides doing the obvious like checking the car’s VIN for the car’s history, there are a number of other things you should check before buying a used car.

After you have set an appointment to check a used car from a private seller, make sure you arrive between 15 and 30 minutes earlier than the appointed time. Do a drive-by to see if the owner is out working on the car and, if so, what he/she is working on, is it something under the hood, under the car, or are they just giving it a good wash and shine? Make sure you set an appointment with the seller to check the car in the morning, checking the car in the morning will allow you to spot any leaks. Then after you drive the car and park it make sure you wait a few minutes to check for any leaks. Also, bring someone else with you when checking a used car so when you start the car have a friend stand outside the back of the car to check the tailpipe for signs of smoke.

If white smoke comes out, that could mean problems with the radiator or the engine overheating. If blue smoke comes out, that is a danger sign that there are problems with the oil. This could cause a number of problems from oil gaskets to oil leaks. If black smoke comes out, that can mean excessive fuel and may show signs of problems with the carburetor, fuel pump, or the fuel injector. Black smoke is the least expensive and worrisome of all the problems associated with smoke coming out of the tailpipe. When checking under the hood, check the oil to see if it is clear and runny or dark and thick, it should be clear and runny. Make sure the battery doesn’t have a lot of rust around it and check the wires and spark plugs to make sure they are not loose, torn, or cracked.

When you take the car for a test drive, get on the highway and drive in the lane closest to the median or center, so you can hear any noises echoing from the surface. Any noise other than the sound of tires on the road should cause concern. Check the body of the car carefully for any dents that may have indicated an accident or any changes in the paint that also could mean an accident. Examine the tires to see if they have even wear and are the size they should be for the type of car. Bounce the corner of the car it should only bounce once or twice before stopping. Check the carpet for water damage or odd stains and smells that may indicate water damage, if stains are visible underneath the dashboard that could indicate a leaky heater or air-conditioner.

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