While buying a used vehicle will save you money in purchase price and help you avoid depreciation costs, it is important to do your research before you purchase one. To avoid purchasing a car with hidden problems, consider the following buying precautions:
- Excessive wear and tear in the interior, regardless of what the odometer says, is a clue that the car has seen some miles.
- Damp, musty odors are indications of leaks in the windshield, weather stripping or heater core.
- Cars that ride lower in the front as compared to the back indicate worn springs.
- Vehicles that bounce when pushed on indicate worn shocks and struts.
- Tires with worn outer edges from the front end represent the need for an alignment.
- Clanking noises when the vehicle is in gear point towards a problem with the drive shaft universal joints.
- Repainted body panels.
- Motor oil that is not full indicates that the engine may be leaking or burning oil.
- Knocking and ticking sounds that increase as the engine speed increases represent major problems and costly repairs.
- Transmission fluid that is black or brown may indicate internal damage.
- Banging, grinding or squeaking noises indicate a damaged or broken transmission mount.
Do not be fooled by the mileage on the odometer! To see if the instruments have been tampered with, look for fingerprints or scratches inside the plastic covering. Mile numbers that don’t line up properly on the odometer offer another fraud clue. This may be a crude attempt at getting you to buy a vehicle that has far more miles (and problems) than what the low mileage would suggest.