Join Date: Aug 2007
Car: goes pssssh
hey buddy here's what I do before a car, a detailed list. Take it from me, I appraised cars.
Examing a Car
I thought I'd type out what may help prospective buyers when looking for a vehicle.
Take it from me, I've been burnt $4k on an e36 BMW and $2800 on a 97 Infiniti QX4, which isn't much, but its a solid learning lesson. Ever since learning to appraise vehicles, I've developed a systematic way to inspect vehicles. First of all, I do proven research beforehand. I talk to the seller before I look at it, and let him answer my first basic question..
"Do you have maintainence receipts for this car?" and "where has this car been maintained all its life?" If he stutters, falters, doesn't know what to say, I'm not interested. I want a car that's been well maintained and has receipts to back this up. In the under 5k mark, its much harder to find, and often I'll just look at the car if the guy has knowledge of the car and what has been changed lately, even if he doesn't have "receipts." Receipts are your best friend, always try to find a car with receipts.
When I go to see the car, I notice the type of person he is. Older, 40's to 60's he probably hasn't bagged on the car (yes its a stereotype, but its damn true). If he's younger, 18 to 25, he's bagged the crap out of the car, very likely (I saw too many Tiburons and GSR's and Civics just in rough rough shape due to bagging). Just keep this in mind.
First and foremost, I examine the body of the car thoroughly.
- Rust is very important to me. For under $5k vehicles in Ontario you're probably going to find some. But rust is a good indicator of whether it was winter driven, how it was maintained, and what the car's condition will be in the future (i.e. a rust bucket). I always buy rust-free vehicles personally, I HATE rust.
- Dents/scratches. I expect a few if its city driven, but if I see a fair bit on a 'high mileage highway driven only' car, its an alert to me, that it was city driven lots. Like I said, the body is crucial to me, I can always fix an engine, or fix mechanical parts, but if your body doesn't look good, than your car will never have the same type of resale. I.e., a really rusty E36 BMW M3.
I get in the car and look at the interior next:
- Is it worn, abused, is it clean? When I was appraising vehicles I noticed that about 90% of the cars that had well worn interiors and unclean dashboards and wrecked carpets and were generally filthy were VERY unmaintained mechanically. The owners treat the interior like they treated the maintainence of the car, terribly. I saw a 2002 Corolla with a trashed interior once, and the car was on its last legs. It only had 140xxxkm on it. He hadn't done an oil change in 20 to 25 thousand km.. he didn't see the 'point in it.' So, I often stay away from cars that are disgusting inside. And surprisingly enough, you still see lots of cars that are dirty inside.
- I try every mechanical and electronic function from wipers to horn to climate control to A/C to heat at full and low blast, from headlights to high beams to seat warmers to radio to rear wiper to alarm to keyless remote to hazards... everything. Expect one thing not too work..its normal.
- I pop the trunk, take a look at the engine bay. Is it clean or is it dirty? A clean engine bay means the owner probably took it to the carwash before he showed it to you, so don't think its just 'clean' that its been well maintained. I always check:
0- Oil and levels and oil color
0- powersteering fluid
0- all fluids, from rad to even windshield fluid.
0- see if belts aren't frayed, if you're allowed check T-Belt if its a non interference engine (i was allowed when I bought my last Lude).
- Than turn on the car and listen to the engine, rev it up and down with throttle cable.. listen for ticking, hammering, anything unusual.
- I examine the lines of the body versus the fenders and the sides of the fender coming into the engine bay to see if its been in an accident, it takes a little bit of practice to see a vehicle with accident history if its been repaired properly. I check the pillars and how they match up, than walk around to the back and look at the rear bumper to see if its sitting high or low. Than I go home and CARPROOF the vehicle (don't carfax it unless its an American car [Carfax misses a lot of stuff]).
Than get in and testdrive. I personally testdrive cars I'm interested a lot different than most people, so I won't write it all here, but I can tell by the way a car drives, what sounds are what parts that have to be replaced. THUNK THUNK = struts, loud road noise and humming from the front often = wheel bearings, etc.
Than get the seller to have it looked at by a mechanic who will doublecheck everything you just did. Have the seller guarantee the e-test in writing and if you want, have him certify it (this doesn't matter to me as much if your mechanic and you check it out and both of you are happy).
Conclusion: You will never find a car that's perfect. Except for my car hehe. But seriously, something will be off, or something won't be 100% right. That's normal. If a brake squeals or rubs, but the rest of the car runs fine and drives like a million bucks and you've ruled out its not a hub or an axle but a squeaky pad, buy it. Used cars are used because they're not perfect. For your money, expect something that will run good, will have a good body (to the best you can afford), and will hopefully not need thousands of maintainence in the near future (unless you're getting a crazy good deal). Make sure, make sure the Used Vehicle Information package lines up with the carproof when you go to buy, and the history is COMPLETELY counted for. You don't want any surprises when you go to buy it!