Below I have listed five things you should look for before buying a used car. If you do not feel comfortable checking some of these things then find a mechanic you trust and ask them to check the vehicle out for you. The seller should not have a problem with this. If they do, then walk away. Also use your own mechanic, not the sellers mechanic. If the seller insists on using there own mechanic to tell you the car is fine, walk away.
1. Check for rust
First take a walk around the vehicle. Look for any rust or rot on the body. If there is, you need to decide if this is something you can, or even want to try and fix. Make sure the paint matches the rest of the car. If one part of the vehicle does not quite match it may have been replaced for some reason. Maybe from an accident or something. Also take a look underneath. Does everything look fairly solid and not rotted through. Such as the frame, exhaust, brake lines, fuel lines, gas tank.
Turn the key on and check to make sure that the wipers and washers work. Also make sure the blinkers, headlights tail lights, and brake lights are all working correctly. Start the vehicle. Make sure the check engine light is not on. If the check engine light remains on while the engine is running the vehicle may need some work. Put the ebrake on and shift the vehicle into drive. If it does not creep forward then the ebrake works fine.
While the vehicle is running push down on the brake pedal hard to make sure the brakes are working. You could also slowly put pressure on the brake pedal. If it goes down to the floor then the brakes will need work. Also while your in the vehicle push down on the floor boards where you put your feet. The floor boards should be solid and should not be flexible or weak.
Check the oil. Pull the dip stick out. Make sure it is at the correct operating level. Also note what color the oil is. It should be a golden color. This would mean that the oil has been changed recently and is usually a good sign. If it is black it is going need an oil change. Also take a quick smell of the oil. That’s right, I said smell the oil. If it smells like gas then it has other issues you may not want to deal with.
4. Transmission Fluid
Check the transmission fluid. Note that vehicles with automatic transmissions need the engine running to properly check the fluid level. Pull out the transmission dipstick. Is it at the correct operating level? If the fluid is a deep red color that is a good sign. If the fluid is a pinkish color then the transmission has problems. If the fluid is brownish in color then its been over worked and will need repair. Be aware that transmission work can be very expensive so be smart and check.
Check the coolant level and color that is in the radiator. But be careful! If the vehicle has been running the radiator will be hot and could have pressure in the system. If the radiator hose has pressure in it do not open the radiator cap! Instead wait until the vehicle has cooled down and there is no pressure in the hoses. If you don’t feel comfortable checking this, don’t. If you do the color of the coolant should be green like a lime. Brown fluid is not a good sign. Clear fluid will indicate that there is mostly water in the system and not much coolant in it, if any.
When buying a used vehicle refer to this article and it may save you time and money down the road.