Quick things to look out for when buying a used car

driving, friends, roadtrip

So you’re ready to start shopping around for a used car, great!

I wanted to give a quick list of things people should look for, and look out for when buying a used car. But before I go any further I can’t stress how important it is to have a good, trustworthy mechanic.

No matter how good the car looks you should spend the money and have your mechanic give you a straight forward write up on the condition.

Time to grab a coffee and go

You want to look for obvious signs of neglect, take a walk around the car, look for rust, signs of bodywork, and scratches. Whatever you do, Do not take the Carfax report as pure fact, it’s never 100% accurate.

Let’s go for a ride. We are looking for any clunks over bumps indicating a possible suspension issue, could be a ball joint, sway bar link or worn bushing, all things you want to know now.

Get on the gas a bit, make sure power is smooth with no misfires or hesitation, put it through its paces. Listen for odd noises or obvious things that say (something isn’t right here).

Now for some brake checks, does the car have a shutter or pulsation ? (I will soon be doing a post on proper brake work) How about pulling to one side? These are all indications of trouble under braking. Could have seized caliper, warped rotors etc. Listen for air leaks around glass and smell for mildew or mold in the interior from water intrusion. Make sure all the electrical features work from radio to vanity light, check electric seat functions as well if equipped.

Check for a proper spare tire, jack, wheel lock tool. Look in the glove box for the manual as well, none are deal breakers but its good to know.

Bring a CD and make sure it plays, crank it up! All speakers should be sounding good. Bad radio is a possible deal breaker for scoot just sayin… Also adjust the mirrors if electric and check both heated seats.

Cig lighter fuses blow all the time too, pop your car charger in and check it. Make sure all power windows open from driver’s switch and individual switches at each door. Here is a funny one, make sure the hood opens, cant tell you how many cars we have seen with broken releases or jammed latches.

When driving how does the transmission shift, proper downshifts, Slipping? Put the car in a higher gear if it’s a stick shift and give it gas up a hill, the engine should bog a little and no slippage should be felt.

Check any accessible fluids , are they low or dirty? Make sure you are careful with hot fluids and especially if the cooling system is hot. If you are in uncomfortable skip it, your mechanic should do it anyway.

Make sure the heat is hot and the A/C is cold. Many cars today have Navigation screens and Bluetooth capability. Make sure these work. Check the key fobs and make sure they function as well.

It sounds obvious but are there any warning lights on?

  • check engine
  • abs
  • srs
  • tpms

If so make sure you ask the seller and see how they respond, get a read on them. Do they seem shifty to answer or say a buddy knows what it is you just need a part. Another great question to ask is “why are you selling the car” see how they respond. The response itself and how they respond could tell a lot.

Most people are good and may not even know what the car needs but i have seen people buy cars and find out they need a massive amount of work after the sale. Don’t be that guy or gal. Do some research on the average pricing, check kelly blue book for value on the vehicle. Make sure to ask before going to look the vehicles mileage as well.

When you have some good info before you even go to look you can really negotiate with a bit more confidence. Also check online for specific issues that the particular model vehicle is prone to, an example could be a newer BMW for instance with an electric water pump say a 325xi. A lot of those pumps fail around 65,000 – 80,000 miles and they are costly. These are all tools you can use in the negotiating process.

This is just a quick list of things to be on the lookout for but remember, your mechanic will be looking at a ton more than I can write here. I hope some of these things help so you can go out and feel a little bit more confident when shopping for a car. Thanks for reading. Cheers!