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CAR BUYING TIPS: I have
been buying and selling cars for many years, so I thought I'd offer some free
advice for people looking to purchase a used car. Below, I've written some general
guidelines for avoiding the purchase of someone else's problem.
a particular car, these are things to check that are universal for just about any automobile:
Check that all four tires are wearing evenly. By doing this, you will
ensure that the vehicle rides evenly on the ground and that there is no frame
damage. Cars that have been in serious accidents usually do not ride smoothly.
Thus, you will see the effects in that the tread on the tires are worn more on
one side than the other.
Check the oil stick. Many people check
a vehicle's oil stick (dipstick) when inspecting it, but they really don't know
the reason for this inspection. For the most part, you want to be sure that the
oil is fairly clean (not black). The other major reason for checking the oil stick
is to make certain that there is no water mixing with the oil. Check to make sure
there is no white gunk in the oil. This would indicate that there is a leak in
the head gasket, which is a major problem. To reiterate, be sure that the oil
is fairly clean and that there is no white liquid mixing with the oil.
Check the vehicle in the morning, before the owner has used it. At this
point, the engine will be cold, and you will be able to open the radiator cap
to make sure that the antifreeze is full and green. This tells you that the vehicle's
cooling system is working properly. Never open a radiator cap if the vehicle is
Start the vehicle. You want to make sure that the motor
starts properly and that there are no ticking or knocking noises in the motor
both at startup and while idling. Check the transmission fluid. You must check
the transmission fluid while the motor is warm, usually after ten to fifteen minutes
of run time. You check the transmission fluid by removing the transmission dipstick.
The fluid should be near "full" level, and the color of the fluid should
be red. If the color of the fluid is brown or burnt looking, this indicates that
the vehicle is overdue for a fluid change. This is not ideal when inspecting used car for purchase, since it may indicate that the vehicle's general maintenance
has been neglected. Further, you should check that there is no fine metal type
dust in the transmission fluid. If there are tiny metal shavings in the fluid,
this indicates that the transmission itself is worn and will most likely need
to be replaced or rebuilt in the near future - a major expense.
Check underneath the vehicle. By looking beneath the vehicle while the motor is
running, you will be able to see if there are any fluids leaking. Also, check
the ground underneath and around the vehicle, as well as the underside of the
vehicle for fluids. While the vehicle may not actually be dripping as you watch,
fluids may have stained the ground or may be streaming on the metal undercoating.
Make sure you test drive the vehicle. It is important to drive the
vehicle at least to the speed of 55 miles per hour to ensure that the front end
handles at high speeds and that the transmission shifts into all gears. All too
often, I hear stories of people test driving a vehicle around the block, only
to discover after the purchase, that the transmission does not shift into its
highway gears. If you're a serious buyer, the seller should have no problem with
you test driving the car on a highway.
Check the speedometer and
odometer. While test driving the vehicle, make certain that the speedometer works
correctly and that the odometer is registering the distance you are driving. Needless
to say, it would relatively unpleasant to discover that the car you just purchased, with
50,000 miles on it, does not have a working odometer.
If the vehicle
is a four-wheel drive vehicle, put it in four-wheel drive!
sure the vehicle's inspection sticker is current or that it has expired very recently. It is possible that the vehicle is being sold because it will not pass the state
inspection. Once you purchase the car, you also purchase the inspection problem.
Check to make sure all the vehicles gauges are operating within their
Check the suspension. While test driving the vehicle,
look for a bumpy road or an irregular section of pavement and see how the suspension
After the test drive, park the vehicle, turn it off and
then restart it. You want to make sure this vehicle starts up correctly every
time - especially when it's warm.
For those who wish
to take extra precautions, do both of the checks listed below:
a CarFax report on a vehicle to ensure that the historical records on the car
are clean. You do not want to purchase a stolen vehicle. Nor do you want to purchase
a vehicle that had 80,000 miles on it two years ago, but now has only 45,000.
This step is not foolproof, but for the most part, CarFax reports are as accurate
as you can obtain.
Go to your local dealer/manufacturer and ask them
to tell you if there are any recalls on the make and model of the vehicle. Dealers
keep records on the cars they service. Example: If a customer brings a Ford into
a Ford dealer to be serviced, Ford keeps a record of this. You can actually see
what the mileage was on the vehicle the last time it was serviced (provided that
the vehicle was dealer serviced at one time).
Doing the above enables you to ensure
that the vehicle's mileage is not less then they have on record. I once purchased
a car (1998 Ford Expedition) from a used car dealer and found that the last time it was at the dealer
being serviced, it had more mileage on it the prior year - which meant that someone
turned the odometer back. This happens more frequently than you might think, so
to be safe when purchasing a vehicle, you should check with your local dealer
about its service history. There are no guarantees in life, but if a vehicle passes
this checklist, then it's probably safe to assume that any problems with the car
Good luck car shopping,
Your Friends at Long Island Exchange Inc.