Buying a used car can be an intimidating process if you’ve never done it before or don’t know what to look for. After all, you don’t want to spend thousands only to realize you’ve purchased a vehicle that has some serious problems. In most cases, used car sales are done “as-is” which means the buyer agrees to take the risk that some things may be wrong with the vehicle and that the seller is not responsible for any repairs that are needed after the sale is complete. Of course, sellers are required by law to disclose serious problems, but it doesn’t always work that way, so it’s a buyer beware market. With that said, these are three of the most important things you should be looking at when examining a used car you’re about to buy:
1. Oil Level and Consistency
According to a leading dealership specializing in used luxury vehicles in Raleigh, North Carolina, the oil level and consistency is a huge indicator of whether the previous owner has been keeping up with the oil changes and maintenance of the vehicle. If the oil looks too dark and has a burnt smell, that’s a sign that the vehicle might have been low on oil or overheating in the recent past. Watch a few videos and see pictures to learn what healthy engine oil looks like and compare the used vehicle’s oil to what you know it should look like.
2. Bad Engine Sounds and Smells
You should be able to crank up a vehicle, drive it around, and let it run for a while without hearing too many horrible sounds. If it sounds like something is falling apart or coming off, it probably is. If it smells like something is leaking, it probably is. If the previous owner doesn’t know what’s wrong or doesn’t want to tell you, then that should be a red flag that you should definitely have the vehicle thoroughly inspected by a mechanic before buying it.
3. Shifting Smoothness and Performance
When you shift from park into drive and then through the various gears while driving on the road everything should run smoothly. If there are any sudden jerks or loud grinding or popping noises as you shift gears, or if the vehicle hesitates to speed up and has problems switching into higher gears, then you know there may be a problem with the transmission. That doesn’t mean the vehicle is about to break down any time soon, but it needs to be addressed as it could eventually leave you stranded and it may just be sooner rather than later.
Bring a Checklist and/or Mechanic Friend
The best approach is to have a checklist prepared so you don’t forget to inspect anything crucial. You don’t want to overlook something basic and then regret it later when you discover what would’ve been a deal breaker. For example, many people have bought used cars that needed all four tires replaced without factoring that into the sales price. To keep yourself from forgetting something and to ensure you’re getting an expert opinion, you should bring a checklist and/or take a mechanic with you when viewing the vehicle.