Buying a used car
First, this blog does not take the place of taking any vehicle you want to buy to a shop you trust and having them look the car over! Take it from someone that deals with cars all week long, you stand to lose a lot of money if you don’t have a vehicle reviewed by an independent repair shop. Whether you plan to purchase through a dealership or a private party, this is a MUST. No one can guarantee that the car will be perfect, but the goal we will do our best to keep you from buying someone else’s problem.
The focus of this blog is to teach you what to look for to pre-screen the vehicle before you take it to a shop to have it evaluated.
- Look at the paint. Is the paint color consistent between body panels or is there a slight difference in color? Note that if a body shop is going to paint only part of a vehicle, they will use a body gap (like between the doors) as a stopping spot. They won’t paint the whole car if it isn’t necessary. Is the color consistent from one door to the next, and the fender and hood? Also try to notice the texture of the paint. 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 very hard to match the texture of the original paint. Look closely at your reflection in the paint and see if it changes as you move around the car?
- Look at the size of the body gaps. When the car was new all the spaces between the doors, hood, trunk were the same distance apart. If you see different body gap spaces the car has probably suffered an impact. A minor fender bender might be ok but if the car has really been smacked it may be another story.
- Look under the hood. Is the engine area clean or very dirty? One thing we see is a used car with a super clean engine compartment and some even have been sprayed with some sort of shiny stuff to make it look newer. We don’t like this because usually the engine has been power washed and any leaks we would look for are gone at least for the time being. Take your time and look around a little, do you see anything loose or hanging? Do you see anything wet or dripping, any puddles underneath on the ground? Do you see rodent/squirrel droppings? We see them all the time and animals can do a lot of damage especially to wires. You don’t need to be an expert- just slow down and pay attention.
- Sit in all the seats. All the windows and door locks should work from the driver door and all the individual windows should work from each seat. I like to take one of my kids with me and I tell them sit in each seat and play with everything including the radio, and power seats. Pay attention to the blower fan that moves the heat and A/C out of your dash vents, does it work on all speeds and more importantly does it blow out on the windshield when switched to defrost, and out to the floor when turned to heat? These little things can be very expensive to fix if the whole dashboard has to come off for the repair.
- Take it for a test drive. Pay attention to how hard you have to work to drive straight down the road. If possible, try to drive at lower speeds and also on the highway, and notice any vibrations or odd noises. When using the brakes make note of noises, vibrations or a tendency for the vehicle to pull one way or the other.
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 is glossy and you can see my reflection and the lower is dull, this is the same color but they did a real bad job getting it to match. Also if you look at the texture of the paint above my shoulders my reflection is crinkly, this is called an orange peel texture. This texture is not a problem, but is it consistent around the whole vehicle?
At Jammin J Auto & Tire we highly encourage our customers to please bring us the car before they purchase it! There is not a replacement for putting a vehicle on a professional lift and having a trained technician look it over. We want you to have a positive experience when purchasing a vehicle. Taking the time to make a small investment now can save you hundreds or thousands later by spotting a troublesome vehicle BEFORE you purchase it. Call us today at 314.423.3876 to schedule a pre-purchase checkout.