Buying Used Cars – No Joy Ride

     Are you shopping for a used car? It’s very possible to get a great deal, but there are many, many factors to check out and take into account at the various stages of your self-inspection and test drive.

Pre Test Drive Checklist

Make sure there is a good spare tire and jack.
Is there an owner’s manual?
Is the trunk big enough to carry everything you need it to?
Check the wiper blades! It should not be a deal-breaker, but it is easy to forget. 
Is there enough room in the cabin?
How does the thing smell? If it smells like a subway station in the summer, beware: That might not go away.
Many spots on the interior will not go away either, no matter how much you pay for the V.I.P. wash. How do the seats look?
Does the radio emit any distortion or buzz? If so, the speakers might well be blown. (Make sure to turn the radio off before you start driving so you can hear the engine!)
Check every window and the sunroof, if the car has one.
Do the tires match?

Items To Consider During The Test Drive

Make sure to choose a route with stop-and-go driving and various road conditions. Take it out on the highway of possible in order to check all gears. If it is a 4-Wheel Drive vehicle, engage it and feel how easy it is to operate.
How smoothly does the vehicle switch from Park to Reverse to Drive?
Are you enjoying driving the car?
How fast or slow do the brakes respond? Do they make any noise?
Does the car park/pull out easily? What’s the turning radius like?
Do the air conditioner and heater run efficiently?
Is the motor loud or quiet? Does it make unusual noises?
When driving on a rough road, listen closely for any not-so-nice sounds.
Notice whether the vehicle drives straight. Does it pull to one side? If so, it might need to be aligned.

After The Test Drive Checklist

Carefully (with a cloth) remove the oil filler cap. Any smoke? If so, you may want to forget about this one entirely.
Is there water, rust or sludge on the underside of the oil filler cap? That could be a verrrrry bad sign.
Any leaks under the car?
Think about this car versus others you’ve driven. How does it stack up?
Does the car “feel like you”? Is it something you’d be comfortable driving around town in? Is it something you could keep for a few years?

     Buying a used car can be truly scary, but paying attention to the above checklist will not only earn you a little peace of mind, but might just give you a few extra points to haggle over when it comes to determining the final purchase price. If you’re still having reservations, make an appointment with a trustworthy mechanic and request a pre-purchase inspection. Hopefully he will have a few more tools to employ than this checklist!