You are in the market for a car and a used one at that. Shop around carefully and you just may find a deal that suits you. Then again, if you are not careful when evaluating your options, you could be taken for the kind of a ride you do not want: notably, getting stuck with a problem-plagued vehicle. When considering a particular vehicle, avoid those that miss the mark due to any of the following eight reasons.
1. A problematic vehicle history. What do you know about the vehicle’s history? Have you obtained a vehicle history report, such as one from CARFAX? (Disclaimer: this correspondent is a former contributor to CARFAX). A CARFAX or similar comprehensive report should spell out the owner’s name, the service work reported, accident information and other details. Certainly, such a report will not tell you everything about the car, but a report that lists a glaring problem such as being hit on the side in an accident is a car that should be avoided. In other words, you may be dealing with a car with a bent frame. (Here is an excellent article that details the limits and sometimes the pitfalls with vehicle history reports — Limitations and Problems with Carfax or any Vehicle History Report).
2. Coolant system trouble. A well-maintained car will have clean coolant. A car that has been neglected will show signs of debris in the fluid, something that the average buyer might miss. Ask your mechanic to check the car to determine if the fluid has been changed regularly.
3. Engine oil or transmission fluid discoloration. New oil is amber in color, while older oil can be black, but still effective. However, most people are not able to determine if the oil is actually bad, something a skilled technician such as your mechanic can substantiate. As for the transmission fluid, if it smells burnt or looks dark brown, you may soon be faced with an expensive transmission repair if you go ahead and buy the car without taking it to your mechanic for inspection.
4. Most performance models. The more power a vehicle has under the hood, the more likely the owner pushed the car to its limits. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with a performance model per se, such vehicles are typically prone to wearing out faster. For example, suspension parts may take a beating, the engine and transmission may have shorter lifespans, and other parts related to vehicle performance may wear out faster.
5. Visible signs of wear and tear. Foggy headlights, worn tires, cracked rims, faded paint and ripped seats are signs that a car has been through it all. Likely, the visible wear and tear issues demonstrate that the owner has not kept up with overall maintenance, suggesting that this particular used car will offer a greater share of reliability woes.
6. Accident damage. We looked at this concern in the first point, but there are additional details that should be mentioned. First, if the car was in an accident, how severe was that accident? Second, was the car in more than one accident? Third, are there signs of corrosion present? Fourth, is the paint texture uneven or are the various panels poorly fitted? If you are still not sure about the car’s condition, then take the vehicle to a mechanic for an inspection.
7. The current owner is a smoker. You might be a smoker yourself or have nothing against people who smoke. But, if you are in the market for a car, smoke is one odor you may find impossible to remove from a vehicle. Moreover, ashes may burn holes in the seats or in the carpeting. Furthermore, smoke will permeate the fabric, settle inside the dashboard and simply pollute the cabin.
8. The model has a reputation for problems. Most cars built in the new millennium are far more reliable than those that preceded them. Yet, there are certain models that have performed poorly in crash tests, have gone through multiple recalls, or simply are outclassed in their segment. If you buy a particular model with a reputation for problems, your repair costs may come in much higher than a similar vehicle with a superior track record.
Used Car Considerations
Most car shoppers do not possess the expertise to buy a used vehicle without having someone else with them to also scrutinize the car. For a pricier used car, it is always a sound policy to pay your mechanic to give the car a good looking over. If the owner refuses to allow a mechanic review, then you should move on to the next car.
See Also — NHTSA Recall Action Targets Rental Car Companies and Used Car Dealers
Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.
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