If you follow this step by step simple instruction you will have a better chance of getting a good used vehicle. Beware, some people will purchase vehicle from auto auction and repair it and some of the vehicles have not been reported as having accident damage. When you see the vehicle you want, look it over and take notes. The notes you took will remind you of the entire thing you will need to seek information about before you pay the cash. Also beware of buying from E-Bay, I once sold a car on E-Bay and the buyer sent me a certified Bank of America check but the amount was $2,000 more than I wanted. I called the buyer and he said I am sorry I sent you over payment and if you don’t mind just cash the check and send the difference back to me. I felt suspicious and went to B of A and they told me the check was forged and not real. I called the person back and he really got mad, I told him I will turn the check over to the FBI. I just saved myself $2,000, so be very careful, if you do accept a check from anyone you must insist they wait at least 30 days for the check to clear and be cleared. One story I heard was a person waited two weeks and then sent back the over payment and then one week later was told the postal money order he cashed was forged, so be very careful.
1) Do a CarFax and/or a CarCheck to look for unseen accident damage.
2) Inspect the vehicle or have it inspected by a certified mechanic with a written report.
3) Look at the vehicle for oil, water and any fluid leaks and write the area down.
4) Check all lights for operation as well as all electrical working parts, including the seats and cigarette lighter.
5) Check for broken parts and worn rubber parts.
6) Feel of the hoses for soft spots and look for cracks or damage.
7) Look at the body parts where they meet for proper alignment, the parts lines must be equal on all places like the left and right fender should align with the hood front to back and be at the same height.
8) Look at the tires for uneven wear, edge wear, feathering and knots is a suspension and alignment issue, be sure to look at the front and rear because sometimes a person will put the rear on the front to make it look better and to hide a problem..
9) Look at the radiator for rust, the coolant should be green on older cars and red on newer cars, rust is a sign of poor maintenance and will likely show up as a leak later after you drive for awhile.
10) Check the engine oil it should be clean and dark black is a sign of lack of poor maintenance, also look under the oil fill cap before and after you road tested the vehicle, look for a milk color a sign of an internal coolant leak (very costly repair).
11) Check the transmission fluid for smell, it smells burned then it likely has a transmission slippage problem, the fluid should be bright red, look for leaks as well.
12) Check the power steering it should be at the full line.
13) Check the brake fluid and see if it is low, low fluid may indicate worn brake pads or a leak, if it is low look at the inside wheel at the brake caliper for brake pad wear, if the pads are good look at the rear of the brake booster for paint peeling, a sign of a leaking brake master cylinder, another place to look is at the inside floor area for wetness of brake fluids another sign of a leaking brake master cylinder.
14) Step on the brake pedal and see if it sinks to the floor, if it does under a firm pressure then a brake master cylinder is likely the cause (a safety issue).
15) If all check out so far then move on to start the engine and then watch and listen.
16) You be best to have another person with you when you start the engine, have him stand behind the car/truck and when you start it look for smoke, blue is oil burning even if only for a second, black smoke is too much gas another smog related concern and white if goes away in a few minutes is water and is OK but a long and steady white smoke is internal leakage of coolant.
17) Listen to the engine for a knocking sound, if it goes away and then stops knocking there is worn bearings and a possible repair will be needed sooner than later, a steady knock can be lifters, tappets and or rod or main bearing knocks a certified pro can tell you what it is.
18) If at all possible have a shop run a scan for trouble codes that may have been erased and write down all the code numbers (the internet will tell you what they mean).
19) Watch for engine light, an engine light is a warning something is wrong, an ABS is a warning the brakes have a problem and the SRS warning is a sign the air bags have a problem be watchful when you drive and when you start the engine. All warning lights will come on when you start the engine for up to 6 seconds and then go off if all is well.
18) Pay attention on how smooth the engine runs both in P and D/R gears, a rough running engine that jerks or stalls is not good and an engine warning light will likely be on.
19) Be aware of how the transmission engages when you put it into gear on automatics, the transmission should engage with a soft feel and when it shifts it should be soft as well (not jerk hard), when you drive the transmission should not vibrate when moving from a stop or up-shifting or downshifting (a concern to worry about), if the transmission shifts smooth and no vibration or jerking is felt then it is likely OK.
20) For a stick shift transmission, the transmission should go into gears without a grind (a grind is a gear concern and expensive repair). When pulling away from a stop it should be smooth and not jerk or chatter, both are a sign of a worn or defective clutch (a costly repair), there should not be any noise when driving as well.
21) Stopping is important, listen for squeaking, grinding and vibration when stopping are all signs of brake problems (have a pro check it for you to be safe).
22) CAUTION: THIS IS A TEST FOR PROFESSIONAL ONLY, because a person may get run over or you may have an accident if you try this test. Steering is also a concern if your Technician finds a problems, he should check for wobble and or vibration at high speed 40mph plus, he should check for alignment pull or drift to one side, he would check the alignment for drift or pull, he will need to go to speeds of 25mph on a flat road and be sure there is plenty of room, he should hold his hands a few inches away from the wheel and let go, he should count to 1thousand1, 1thousand2, 1thousand3, 1thousand4, 1thousand5 and 1thousand6 if the vehicle drifts to one side or the other before that time limit then an alignment issue is likely there and he will know that, he should also inspect the tires before the road test for proper pressure (see door panel for proper pressure) as well as for uneven spots like tire separation.
23) Listen for clunking noise when turning and braking, a sign of suspension and or brake concerns and will cause alignment issues.
If you are going to purchase a new vehicle then I would suggest you get the book “Lemon Protection Identifying A Lemon” on Amazon.com, it is a very helpful book and small in size but filled with information. I will also publish the book “Lemon Protection How to Inspect a Used Vehicle” and “Lemon Protection Communicating With Your Mechanic” in the next few weeks and it will also be on Amazon.com. Thank you for your time and God bless you, please refer or tell a friend if you like this write up.