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GMTruckGuy74

Used Car Shopping - Inspections & Test Drives

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Alright, so after a week of back-and-forth e-mailing with the owner of a slightly older used car I found for sale on a Craigslist ad, I'm planning to go check it out sometime today (likely in the early afternoon). Since it has been a LONG time since I shopped for a used car, and even then is was for a newer used car, is there a standard checklist to take along so I don't overlook anything? It would be a bonus if it was from a "Used Car Shopping for Dummies with little Mechanical Skills" book. If I like what I see, I will be asking to take it for a much more thorough inspection by an AA-approved mechanic. But I want to be able to perform a basic inspection so the seller doesn't take me for a NOOB :lol:

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Maybe run a Carfax. Beyond that, check the oil, thats the easiest way to see if there is something uber-f@#ked up internally, then just listen for any odd sounds, something like a knock or exhaust leak is pretty easy to spot if you're paying attention. Test drive it on city streets and highways, then check the ttransmission fluid. Look around for signs of water damage or rust inside. If it passes all those tests, have a mechanic give it a look, just to be safe.

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Satty's right. Just get a carfax. Check the fluids, especially the oil, and look under the car, particularly at the frame to see if there has ever been any damage to it that didn't show up on the carfax. Also check the tires to see if they are very worn or not usuing the old penny trick. This way you know how the car was driven (ie its a 2 year old car with 15k miles and no tread.... makes you stop and think) and also makes you aware if you need to consider new tires in your budget if it just happens to be time to replace them.

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FL-DMW publishes the following ckecklist, most of it is NS Sherlock:

Exterior Checklist:

  • Examine in daytime
  • Examine in clear weather
  • Check for nicks and scratches
  • Check for thin, worn paint
  • Check for big defects (costly) and not minor repairs
  • General look around the outside of the car.
  • Examine both sides of the car from a distance (both front and back).
  • Look for ripples, waves, poorly fitted panels and mismatched colors.
  • Look for dents or rust around the bottom of the doors and fenders.
  • Check for bubbles along molding or chrome (indicates rust underneath).
  • Look under the vehicle for rust
  • Check for welding spots on the frame (serious accident or repairs).
  • Open and close the doors, hood, trunk or hatchback.
  • Stand back approximately 10 to 15 feet from the car and see if the car is level.
  • Check the shocks by pushing down on each corner of the car and letting go.
  • Check the tires (sidewall cracks, uneven tire wear, brake fluid leakage)
  • Look under the car for:
    • oil spots, or
    • transmission fluid or
    • power steering fluid or
    • shock absorber fluid.
  • Open the hood and check belts and hoses for cracks or wear.
  • Radiator coolant should be a clean, greenish (or blue or yellow) color.
  • Pull out the oil dipstick. Oil should not be gummy or grayish or smell burnt.
  • Check automatic transmission fluid, should be clear and reddish.
  • Check the fluid level in the master cylinder as well.
  • Look inside the trunk for an inflated spare tire, a jack and a lug wrench.
Interior Checklist

  • Check the mileage
  • Compare mileage on service stickers (door jamb/under hood) to the odometer reading.
  • Check the condition of the seats, belts and carpeting.
  • Check the windows to see if they open and close easily.
  • Check the brake, accelerator and clutch -- should work smoothly, no strange noises.
  • Check all exterior lights and flashers on the car
  • Start the engine and check the warning lights and gauges
  • Make certain that the air conditioning blows very cold air.
  • Check the glove box for the owner's manual.
  • Do not be afraid to take up the salespersons' time.
  • Stay in control
  • Do not let anyone talk you into buying a vehicle you do not want.
Test Drive Checklist

  • Drive the car on hills, highways and in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Start the engine and press down on the brake.
  • Listen for noises which could indicate engine problems.
  • Put the car in neutral and rev the engine. Check for smoke from rear exhaust.
  • Punch the gas pedal. Does engine respond without hesitation then return to normal?
  • Check the lights on the control panels--be sure they all work.
  • Does automatic transmission shift smoothly?
  • Manual transmission should shift smoothly between gears without grinding.
  • Clutch should engage and disengage smoothly without grabbing
  • Drive in reverse
  • Does car pull or vibrate when driving on a flat, smooth road?
  • Do the brakes grab evenly and does the car slow down in a straight line?
  • Drive at 35 miles per hour and listen for any unusual noises.
  • Accelerate to 45 miles per hour, does the front end shake or vibrate?
  • Drive quickly over a rough road and listen for any loud squeaks or rattles.
  • Does the car bounce or bang over small bumps?
  • Check the temperature gauge to see if it shows a high reading
  • Accelerate hard on an empty road, does the car respond immediately?
  • Try it again.
  • Accelerate on a hill, does the car respond immediately?
  • Cut off the engine. Then restart the engine -- does it restart easily?
  • Check for leaks under the hood and beneath the car.
  • Check the tailpipe. Are there any black, sooty oil deposits?
  • Does the odometer mileage seem to match the physical condition of the car?
  • <a name="20">Check odometer for scratches, misaligned digits, digits that stick.
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