With the economy the way it is now, getting a loan for a new car can be scary. Instead of borrowing thousands of dollars to buy a new car, find yourself a good used car and save yourself thousands of dollars. While some used cars are beat up and unreliable, there are many that have several thousand miles in them. There are many used cars that are in like new condition, and are sometimes overlooked by the untrained eye. When shopping for a good used vehicle, there are a few simple things to look for that will assure you that you are getting a reliable vehicle.
Do not be afraid to look under the hood. When used car shopping it is imperative to look under the hood. Even a novice that knows nothing about mechanic work can check for certain things under the hood to determine how the car has been treated. The first thing to check is all of the fluid levels, make sure all the levels are in the full range. The next thing to look for is how clean is the engine. Check that there is minimum oil and grease in the engine and the engine compartment. Look around seals and everywhere you see bolts on the engine for oil. This could mean an oil leak if significant oil is found. There will usually be small amounts of oil and grease residue around the oil fill, and dipstick tubes. The lack of oil could indicate that the engine has been steam cleaned to hide an oil leak. It is best to check under the hood before the test drive and check again after the test drive. If there is a leak it should be able to notice oil after driving. Also take a look under the car and check for transmission fluid, oil, and grease as many leaks leave the evidence under the vehicle.
Your sense of site is not the only thing you can use to check out a used car. Actually you will use all of your senses except taste unless you stop at the drive thru during the test drive. Your sense of smell can be very helpful when shopping for a used car. After the car has ran long enough for everything to heat up, smell under the hood for anything that smells like it is too hot. It could be a burnt rubber smell or antifreeze. You do not want to smell anything under the hood. Pull the dipstick and analyze the oil on it. Smell of it to see if it smells burnt. Also see if it is black. Fresh oil has virtually no smell and you should be able to tell if it is fresh or not. Do the same thing to the transmission dipstick if the car has an automatic transmission. Transmission fluid is red and it does have a smell but it is not strong. If it smells strong or burnt, It has not been serviced recently. The oil and transmission fluid can tell you if the car has been routinely serviced or not. A well serviced vehicle can last for several hundred thousand miles.
Next is touch. With the engine off, feel of the belts, hoses, and other rubber under the hood. Be careful not to burn yourself, as it is normal for things to get hot under the hood. It is best to let the car cool off before checking these things. The rubber should be soft and pliable. If it is hard or rough feeling, the rubber is dry cracked and needs to be replaced. Don’t let this stop you from buying the car. If you point these things out to your dealer, and tell him/her to replace them they usually will before you purchase the car. While test driving make sure the ride is smooth, and make sure there is no vibrations in the steering wheel or floorboard, and pedals.
Now it is time to use your ears. Crank the engine and listen under the hood for tapping, excessive vibrations, and any other noise that stands out. A good engine should sound smooth and quiet under the hood, hence the saying “It runs like a sewing machine.”. While you are test driving the car keep your ears open and listen for any odd sounds. If the vehicle is an automatic, listen to make sure the transmission shifts smoothly, etc.
After your inspection, weigh your findings to help decide whether or not to purchase the car. Burnt oil or transmission fluid could mean that the car has not been serviced on schedule, and may not last long. The exterior of the car has no effect on how reliable the car is but check it for repairs such as brighter paint in certain areas, as this could mean the car has been wrecked at one time. A magnet can sometimes be used to check for body filler repairs, as the cars exterior is metal and body filler (Bondo) is not. The magnet will not stick to body fillers. This test can not be used on some vehicles as the body is made out of fiberglass and it is not magnetic. A car that has just been in a fender bender, and repaired is usually fine, but a serious wreck can cause several problems down the road. Don’t forget to check the tires and make sure they are wearing evenly. A tire that is ate out on the outside or slick on the inside can indicate that the vehicle is out of alignment. If it is out of alignment the vehicle will usually pull one way or the other. While test driving the car, take your hand off the steering wheel and make sure it is not pulling. If it is pulling it is either out of alignment or has a bad tire. Also be sure to check both the air conditioner and heater to see if they work. According to the season the heater or a/c is commonly overlooked until it is needed.
You are now ready to make a decision. Purchase the vehicle or not. If the car has passed the test above and runs smooth, there is a good chance the car will be reliable for quite some time. If you notice a few minor problems such as dry cracked hoses or a non working heater, etc your dealer will most likely agree to make these repairs for free if you decide to purchase the car. Most car dealers are ready to sell and they will accommodate you on minor problems without a hassle. A good used car can be just as reliable as a brand new car. The used car is new to you anyway, and buying a used car will be gentle on your wallet, so if you are shopping for a vehicle consider purchasing a used one.