Carefully check the paint on the car, taking note of any rust spots, dents or scratches. Look down the sides of the car from end-to–end for waviness; that indicates paint work (do this in the sun). Check the trunk of the car to make sure it is still in good condition. It should not show any sign of rust, or water entry due to cracks or holes. Check under the hood of the car for any indication of dents, damage or rust. These can all be signs that the car was either poorly taken care of or damage. Each fender, just inside where the hood joins should have the decal with the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the car, if one is missing, that fender has been replaced.
Check these Items Out too
The hoses and belts should not have cracks; the radiator hoses should not be soft. If they are that means they are old and need to be replaced. Go inside the car check the seats and upholstery of the car for any tears, rips, stains or other type of damage.
Check to make sure the heater and air conditioning of the car is working well by turning it on to see that it works. Check the head lights, brake lights, and parking lights and back up lights. Check out the cars service history which should give you some information regarding the performances, repairs and problems of the car. Ideally the current owner would have kept a record of the times when the car needed servicing and should be willing to show you this information. Check the odometer of the car for the mileage. This is important because the mileage indicates the car’s age. Remember, cars age by time and mileage. Buying a 10 year old car with low miles is not necessarily a good thing. You need to take in to consecration the current owners of the car also.
The tires should be worn evenly and they should match. Look at the surface of the tires, bad alignment can be caused by worn steering /suspension components.
Dont forget to Test Drive your Used Car
The buyer should test drive the car before making any final decisions. This is one of the best ways to know the condition of the car. Be sure to check the brakes of the car by pressing down hard enough in the brakes to decelerate rapidly, but not enough to slide. Try this going around 30 miles per hour in an area without traffic. You should not feel any vibration from the brake pedal, or hear any strange noises. Brakes that pulsate indicate the need for having the rotors resurfaced or replaced and new pads installed. It should not swerve, this can be caused by a bad brake caliper or worn steering components.
Pull the transmission dipstick, the fluid should be pink or red in color. An old car may be dark but it should not look or smell burnt. It should also be full (check this with the engine running). The timing belt is the most important belt in the engine and is also the most costly to replace. If the car is equipped with a steel timing chain, you don’t have to worry about this. Normal lifespan of a timing belt is from 60 to 100 plus thousand miles. This depends on the manufacturer. Check with the owner’s manual to make sure on the mileage.
If you are able, try to get under the car when it is safely raised and inspect the exhaust system or any under-body rust. This is also the best time to inspect for frame or unibody damage. It is definitely worth the money to go to your repair shop and have them inspect it for you. This will cost some money but it’s better to pay $75.00 to $90.00 dollars to get a car inspected and find out it’s not worth the investment, then to spend $10,000.00 dollars, or more, on a car and find out within a few months that you are going to have to spend more money on repairs to get it fixed.
Negotiate a Price
Do not feel the need to pay the price they are asking. Depending on the quality of the vehicle, feel free to offer a price. Be sure that it is a reasonable offer. Most people try to buy more car then they can really afford. Remember, no matter how good that used car is today, it’s going to require maintenance in the future.
Be Thorough with your Inspections
If you are buying a used car from a private person it can be beneficial to the price negotiation to bring a pen, paper and cell phone with you. As you make your inspection of the car be sure to record all of the items which are damaged or will require replacement. After you have collected a list of what you believe the car will require you can telephone your automotive repair stores to check the price and availability of replacement parts.
Once you know how much the car will cost to repair if you buy it, you can make an informed decision on what you would like to pay as well as increase the likelihood that the seller may reduce their asking price. If you take this vehicle to your repair shop and have it checked out for you they will give you a list of what needs to be fixed and the cost of repairs. Also check in to a car fax to see if the vehicle has had any accident history.