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What To Look For When Buying A Used Car

Posted by Tu Resuelve Auto Parts on 9/12/2014

Sometimes, for budget reasons and perhaps seeking some real value, you might be looking into buying a used car instead of a new one. Used cars, if you buy the right one, can retain a lot of its original value that you paid for the car because after a couple of years, new cars have already depreciated 40-50 percent in value.

Many of us need transportation, and sometimes we just can't take the time to do the research that is necessary to find the car we really want. It is usually just a need for mobility that we are seeking, perhaps because we had a car stolen, totaled in a car accident or we're new to the whole driving thing and we just want some wheels of our own but we don't have a new-car budget.

There are some quality cars out there, but there are also plenty of lemons too. Here are some quick tips to do a car-lot inspection of a used car to ensure you are getting a reliable vehicle that can give you some good service for a few years:

First, your best bet is to look for cars that are five years old or less -ideally, less than three years old. These will generally still be under some kind of factory warranty and are usually the cars in the best shape while having a large potion of their new-car depreciation figured into their prices.

Make sure the car you're inspecting is on level ground. This can help you look at the tires accurately and spot anything that seems to be sagging abnormally.

Look closely at the paint. Check for chips, dents, rust or waviness along the side panels - waviness likely signals that some paint and/or body work was done.

Check the trunk. No matter what the odometer says, the trunk doesn't lie in terms of wear. Check for water damage or any cracks or holes. There should only be normal wear shown in the trunk; if there is more than that, that could be a sign of trouble.

Check tires, including the spare. And we don't mean just kick them. Check for even wear of the treads, and make note if tread is uneven; it could signal trouble with alignment or suspension.

If you see any frame damage, or evidence of it (such as welding pieces that signal replacement), walk away from the car and do not consider it again.

If possible, get under the car. Here, you can check for unibody frame damage or rust and check the exhaust system for leaks.

Check under the hood for damage or rust. Hoses should not feel soft and each fender, where they connect with the hood, should have the VIN on them; if they don't it means the fenders are not original.

Check the engine for corrosion or leaks around gaskets or hoses. Inspect the belts to make sure they are new or almost-new. Cracked or dry belts will have to be replaced before you drive the car too far.

Take off the oil filter cap. This is important - if you see a foamy residue on the inside, that signals a leaking or damaged head gasket, which means you walk away from that car immediately. Also, if you see dirty brown coolant in the overflow , that could mean a bad head gasket or at least the system had never been flushed before. Trouble, for sure.

Check the transmission fluid to make sure it looks pink or red and does not smell burnt. Make sure to check the timing belt; this is the most expensive to replace and is the most central to a car running well.

Check the upholstery in the car for rips, tears, stains - things that indicate excessive wear and lack of care. Also check the air conditioning to make sure it works; newer cars should run R134 coolant, so ensure that it does if A/C is a must for you.

Check the odometer. Mileage is important just as much as age.

Believe it or not, a car that averages less than 6,000 miles per year might actually be as much of a threat to needing repair as a car that averages more than 20,00 miles a year. If your intended usage is in the 10,000-15,000-mile range per year, a car that has sit around a lot may not respond as well to heavier use and thus may break down more easily.

Turn the car on and check for any warning lights from the on-board computer. Also check to ensure lights, CD player, wipers, etc. all work properly.

Take a test drive. While on the drive, test the car at normal acceleration, braking, slow accelerations up to 55 or 75 miles per hour, and check on reaction to a normal 90-degree turn. Anything that sounds or feels weird with any of these tests indicate a potential problem with the car.

Negotiate the price based on what you find. Certain damage or problems are non-starters, as were mentioned before. But if there are other minor issues, takes those into consideration when working on a fair price; don't think that the ask price is what you will pay. With good notes about the car, you can negotiate down pretty easily.