Average Joe’s (Joan’s) Guide to Kicking The Tires

Most people do not know what to look for is a used car. That’s ok, you don’t have to be an expert to come across as one. With the following used car buying tips, you will feel like a regular pro and won’t feel disadvantaged when walking onto a car lot. Take this small checklist with you to remind you what to look for.

Tires-Tire treads wear evenly. If the car doesn’t have even treads on all four tires or if a few of the tires are different makes, it could mean that the previous owner took the cheapest way out when servicing the car. Good maintenance would require all four tires be replaced at the same time. If the tread on one of the tires is worse than the others, it indicates that the car is out of alignment in some respect, or in need of adjustments or parts.

Headlights– Do the headlights match? By this I mean is one of them yellow or pointing in the wrong direction? This could give you a clue that the car was hit on one side. If they don’t match, look for these other clues of an accident.

The body lines are uneven. The body lines are where different parts of the car come together. If on one side of the car the gap in the body line is larger or smaller, it could indicate an accident.

Paint is a different shade. The car was probably painted in the area of an accident and the paint shade would be different.

Paint overspray is present. Open the hood, and take a look at where the paint ends and the metal on the engine begins. If there are specs of paint on the typically non-painted parts, it may indicate an accident. While the hood is open, take a look at the gaps on the right and left front of the car (where you were looking for the overspray). Is the gap in parts larger or smaller on one side? If it is smaller, the car was probably hit on that side.

Interior – Are there little holes in the cloth upholstery on the door or seat? They are most likely cigarette burns. In a leather interior car, look at the head liner, if the color is faded or stained, it was a smoker’s car. Check to see if the seats are stained or the ashtray was used. A smoker’s car often smells like smoke. If you are a non-smoker, you may not like that the previous owner was.

Inspection – When does the inspection expire? If it was just recently inspected, the car passed the states requirements for safety and emissions. If the inspection is due in the coming months, be sure to do a pre-inspection with your mechanic to give you an idea if the car will need anything come next inspection, and adjust the price accordingly. A car with an expired inspection means it either failed last inspection or was never put through. Have the dealer obtain a new inspection before you purchase. This way you know there will be no other unforeseen out of pocket expenses when you drive off the lot. If the dealer refuses to do the inspection, you should question the reason. It may cost an awful lot of money to make it pass.

Oil – Check the oil using the dipstick in the engine with the handle on it. When you pull out the dipstick, check for the level and the color of the oil on it. The level indicator is at the very end of the dipstick. There are two lines with a shaded area indicating an upper and lower limit range, if it is lower than that, the car needs oil. Now check the color; it should be a transparent golden brown. If the color is black and tar like, it means the oil hasn’t been changed in a while. Someone who maintains their car typically has an oil change sticker on the upper left side on the inside of the windshield showing when the last oil change was and when the next one should be.

Power windows and Locks – Check to make sure they work

Keys – Make sure master key fits in both the door lock and ignition. If they don’t work in both, it could mean the steering column was replaced.
Windshield – Are there cracks or chips in it? If they are small, they could get bigger and you will need a new windshield.

CarFax – It is an independent company that details the history of the owners, inspection records and accident reports on the car. Every dealer should have this for you on demand when looking at a car on their lot.

Warranties – What does the warranty cover? More importantly, what doesn’t it cover?

Test drive – Do you fit in it? Does the seat adjust to your comfort? Can you see over the hood?
These are a few or the things to look at when you are looking for a used car. Use these used car buying tips on a used car lot and the dealer will think you know exactly what is going on, even if you don’t. While you are at it, go ahead and kick a tire or two.

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Source by Tom Carey