How To Buy A Decent Used Car

Learn how to buy a mechanically sound used car by checking key points such as the brakes, steering, engine, etc.

Buying a used car should be a positive experience as well as a good investment of your hard-earned money. This can be the case if you follow these basic guidelines:

Test Drive the Car You Are Considering Buying:

You will need to test drive the car and check out the following items. Don't worry if you are not mechanically-inclined and don't know a carburator from a generator. Just pay attention to the things you see and hear and you will be able to tell if the car you are considering purchasing is basically sound.

1. Engine- Does the car start easily? Does the engine idle smoothly? Does the engine accelerate smoothly and without hesitation? Do you hear any strange noises like pinging or knocking?

Remove the oil dipstick and visually inspect the oil. Is it clean? Or is it dark and dirty? Now feel the oil between your fingers. Does it feel smooth or is it gritty?

2. Steering- Do you feel any vibration through the steering wheel? Does the front end shimmy while you are moving down the road? When you take both hands off the wheel, does the car continue to move straight? Or does it pull to the left or the right?

3. Transmission- Does the transmission shift smoothly when you put the car into gear? Does it make a clunking sound when you shift it into gear?

4. Brakes- Do the brakes stop the car gradually as you press the brake pedal down? Do the brakes grab or stop the car suddenly? Do they squeal or grind when they are applied?

5. Tires- Is the tread on the front tires worn evenly? Or do you notice excessive wear on the outside of the front tires?

6. Accessories- Check all of the lights; windshield wipers, radio, cassette/CD player, turn signals, etc. to make sure they all work properly. The radio, for example,isn't essential for the proper running of the car, but since you are paying for the entire car, it should work, shouldn't it?

7. Check the trunk for a spare tire, jack, and lug wrench. Again, these items are not essential for the car to run, but these are standard emergency items included in every car.

If, after you have conducted your own inspection, your are satisfied with the car thus far, your next step is to have the car thoroughly checked-out by a certified mechanic of your own choosing. If you are shopping at a car dealership, don't take their service department's word that the car is in sound condition. Their opinion has to be a little biased, doesn't it?

Tell the mechanic that you are considering buying the car and to check everything out and write up

a statement listing any problems, big or small, that they may find. This service will cost you as much as a couple hundred dollars, but the money spent will be well-worth it in the long run. Be sure to tell the mechanic of any items you have found to be questionable. If the mechanic finds any repair needs, ask for estimates on fixing them. If the problem/problems is/are a major one, run the other way from this car deal. If the problem/problems is/are relatively minor, you should insist that the dealer have the problem/problems repaired before you purchase the car. If you are buying from a private individual, you should bring this/these repair/repairs to his or her attention and negotiate a reduced price.

Last, but certainly not least, do not buy a car from either a dealership or a private individual without first running a check on the Vehicle Identification Number. The seventeen-digit VIN appears on all vehicles, and will tell you the ownership history of the car. The VIN can be found on a metal strip on the dashboard. It can also be found on the doors, the trunk, the hood,and on the engine. The auto makers place VIN stickers on the major parts which are broken down from a car when it's stolen. If they show up on another car, you know something is wrong. Either the car was stolen, or junked and rebuilt. Be sure to check all of the VIN's on the car and make sure they all match-up exactly.

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