Buying a used car is not as easy as it should be.
Please note that this advice does not take the place of taking any used vehicle to a trusted repair shop and having the vehicle physically inspected by an experienced Automotive Technician. Whether the vehicle is being offered for sale through a dealership or a private party.. The goal is to keep a customer from buying someone else’s problem. If a prospective seller will not allow a vehicle to be taken to an independent mechanic, it is time to walk away from the vehicle and move to the next one.
- Paint: Is the paint color consistent between body panels or is there a slight difference in color? If a body shop is going to paint only part of a vehicle, they will use a body gap (the small space between doors) as a stopping spot. Are color and texture consistent from one door to the next, or fender and hood? When the vehicle was painted at the factory the whole thing was sprayed all at one time and you can see the texture in the paint. If portions of the car have been re-painted it is difficult to match the original texture. Look closely at any reflections in the paint and see if it changes as you move around the car. Sometimes instead of a smooth glossy texture, there will be a slight ripple like the peel of an orange.
- Size of Body Gaps: When the car was new all the spaces between the doors, hood, and trunk were the same distance apart. If body gap spaces seem different or change, the car has probably suffered an impact. A minor fender bender might be ok but if the car has severe differences it can be a warning sign that there may be frame damage, which will need to be reviewed with the vehicle on a lift.
- Pop the Hood: Is the engine area clean or dirty? A super clean engine compartment and could have been sprayed with some sort of shiny stuff to make it look newer. This may be a cause for concern. If an engine of a used vehicle is extraordinarily clean, it can be because the engine has been power washed to remove signs of leaks. These leaks will start again after the purchase of the vehicle and the new owner gets a mess on the garage floor. Slowly looking around the engine compartment, observing things that look loose, hanging, or out of place. Look for wetness on the side or bottom of the engine, as well as noticing any puddles underneath on the ground. Look for rodent/squirrel droppings or any grouping of grass or nesting material in the engine compartment. Animals can do a lot of damage to wires and this happens more frequently than one would think; even in suburban areas. Make notes of anything that seems out of place.
- Seating Areas: If possible, take a friend along and ask them to sit in each seat and play with everything including the radio, windows, and power seats. For SUVs and vehicles with a DVD player, bring a DVD along to test accessories. Pay special attention to the blower fan that moves the air out of your vents, does it work on all speeds and does it blow out the proper places when directed there? Does the right temperature come out on A/C and heat? If the vehicle has a rear vents, have your helper sit in the back to check those. HVAC can be expensive to fix, especially if the whole dashboard has to come off for the repair.
- Test Drive: Is the steering wheel pointed straight when the car is driving straight or is it trying to drift away? Try to drive at lower speeds and on the highway. Listen and feel for any vibrations or odd noises when turning, braking, or driving. Use brakes smoothly and once or twice try a sudden stop.
- Tires: It is possible to get an idea if the tires will need to be replaced right away. Place the edge of a penny, headfirst, in the tread gaps in several places around the tire. If Lincoln’s hair is covered by tread, there is still some life left in the tires. If most of his head and hair are visible, the tires most likely need to be replaced. View the tread across the width of the tire and notice if one side of the tire looks more worn down than the other. Uneven wear can be caused by broken or bent suspension parts and misalignment. If the vehicle needs additional repairs, that should be factored into the asking price. Try to find the DOT number on the tire sidewall and look at the surface of the tire. The last 4 digits are typically the month/year of manufacture of the tire. Tires manufactured more than 5 years ago or ones with excessive dry, cracked areas can be suspect even if they have a lot of tread left.
Look at the attached picture, first, observe the body gap and notice how it gets tighter as it goes towards the red taillight. Next, notice the difference between the upper and lower panels, see how the top part of the reflection is glossy and the lower part is dull. This vehicle has been repainted with the same color but the texture of the paint near the top is crinkly, which resembles an orange peel. This may show that some body work has been completed on this vehicle.
If you are in St. Louis, MO it is highly recommended to bring the car in for a full review before purchase! There is not a replacement for putting a vehicle on a professional lift and having a trained technician look it over. Doing so, can help make a used vehicle purchase a positive experience. Visit us at jamminjauto.com or Call us today at 314.423.3876 to schedule a pre-purchase checkout!