Though these tips are not directly related to entrepreneurship, I post it here anyway because I find it very helpful especially for first time car buyers. Buying a second hand car can be quite challenging, especially if your not familiar with car, engines, parts and all its accessories. These guide will show you how and what to look at when inspecting your prospective car.
How to Buy a Used Car from an Individual
This is a summary of what you’ll need to know to buy a used car from an individual. You can use many of these hints to assess a used car at a dealer as well.
- Try not to make your inquiry call during dinnertime. Don’t call too late in the evening or too early in the morning.
- When calling the seller to inquire, have a list of questions ready. Verify the make, model, year, mileage and general condition of the vehicle. Ask why the vehicle is being sold. If the answers to your questions are satisfactory, schedule an appointment.
- Be on time for your appointment. If you have to reschedule, call to make arrangements.
- Examine the pedals and drivers’ seat for wear. While odometer tampering is not as common as it once was, this will give you a good estimation of how much the car was driven.
- Check the tires, especially the front, for wear. If they are worn unevenly, the car will need front end work. Alignment, shocks, tires, tie rods.
- With the car off, jiggle the steering wheel back and forth. There should be less than one inch of play, and no funny clunking noises. If there are, the car may need a steering rack or steering gearbox.
- Check the shocks by pushing the car down three times and releasing at each wheel. The car should go up, down, and stop. Repeat for all wheels.
- Examine under the rocker panels on the side of the car for rust. Once rust starts, it is extremely difficult and costly to stop it.
- Before the test drive, check the coolant. It should not be brown.
- Check the floor of the passenger compartment for soft spots (rust), and the inside of the trunk for holes.
- When starting, the engine should turn quickly and the car should start easily.
- A rough running car can mean any number of things, from leaky air hoses to plugged fuel filter to old spark plugs. Don’t discount a car just because it runs rough.
- When driving the car, the brakes should not shake, grind or squeal loudly. Some squeaking is normal for disc brakes. The brake pedal should feel firm but not hard.
- An automatic transmission should shift solidly. If you are unsure about the auto trans, shift it manually. There should be little lag between moving the shift lever and gear changes, and the engine RPMs should change quickly.
- A manual transmission should be easy to put into gear, and the clutch should catch close to the floor.
- Don’t forget to check the reverse gear!
- Make sure all electric accessories work: windows, locks, audio systemm, seats, alarm (if equipped).
- Check all doors for locking (manual and auto), windows, open them from the inside, the outside, and closing.
- Turn on the heater (even if it’s summer) within moments of turning the car on. How long does it take to provide heat?
- Test the air conditioning. Put the meat thermometer in the center vent to check the temperature. 50 degrees Fahrenheit is pretty cold.
- Test drive the car like you’d normally use it. This includes freeway and city driving. Keep an eye on the temp.
- While parked with the engine running, turn the steering wheel completely in both directions. A squealing noise indicates a slipping power steering pump drive belt. While this may be fixed by an adjustment, overheating from friction may have damaged the belt and it may need replacing. There should be no growling noise; such a noise indicates low power steering fluid, easily confirmed by inspecting the reservoir. Low power steering fluid is likely caused by a leaking power steering system, which could be a simple hose or clamp, an easily accessible seal (in an older vehicle), or a damaged steering rack, which can be quite expensive to replace.
- Check the auto trans fluid with the engine running. It should smell sweet and have little particulate matter. Burnt orange or brown fluid means it hasn’t been changed in a long time. A burnt smell indicates a slipping clutch band, which may require a transmission rebuild to correct.
- With the hood up, let the car idle with the AC running. Listen and look for the operation of the cooling fan near the radiator. If there was no overheating, this should be working fine. Keep your hands clear, as the fan can start and stop without warning (even if the car is off for a short period after it’s hot)
- After the test drive, check the oil with the engine off. Black oil is not necessarily bad, but it shouldn’t feel gritty. Check under the oil cap; it should be clean. White foam under the oil cap indicates coolant in the oil, and expensive engine repairs.
- Examine the battery. If it looks old, it probably is, but batteries are cheap and easy to replace.
- Check the air filter. Dirty or clean doesn’t matter, although if very dirty it can adversely affect both performance and economy. For a paper filter make sure there’s no oil in it.
- Examine the gaps between body panels. Uneven gaps indicate shoddy accident repair.
- Consider bringing a small magnet with you. If the body of the car is steel (some are fiberglass, such as the Corvette, and others such as the Saturn are heat molded plastic), then a failure of the magnet to stick can indicate the extensive use of body compound to effect a repair. High quality repairs, even if bodywork of a damaged panel, generally do not require a lot of filler. The sound of the panel when lightly tapped with a knuckle can also be revealing, as can a sighting at a low angle that will reveal ripples if the paint is shiney. If extensive repairs or damage is confined to an easily removed panel, your cost of repair may be substantially lower than if inner supporting panels or primary body structure has been damaged. Proper painting can be expensive, however, but may be worth the effort for a special interest vehicle. (As noted above, beware of rust, especialy that that comes from inside to the outside of the panel.)
- If the car suits you, make an offer. Have the cash literally in your hand if possible. If you have cash to offer, you can often get a better deal than if you need to come back with cash later, as sellers are usually eager to be done with the hassle of selling their car.
- If you conclude the purchase, get the signed title from the seller. Also have the seller fill out a bill of sale, saying that party A (address, phone) sold the vehicle to party B (address, phone). If you are stopped by the police on the way home, this paperwork will smooth the way for you.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the seller, the car, the neighborhood or anything else, you are not obliged to see, drive or buy the car.
source: ww.wikihow.com, photo from kotsemo.com