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Well, I've been meaning to make this contribution for a while since I think there's a need for this kind of thread. After the recent thread about a guy getting boned due to a bad tranny, it's time.

Feel free to comment; I'm sure there are lots of additions people want to see. I don't want this list to be too large and I want the checks to be relatively simple and not overly time consuming while still providing a good assessment. Here are my thoughts, in no real order (like all my random thoughts).

HOW TO BUY A USED VEHICLE

ADMIN STUFF
1. Decide the purpose of the vehicle. Do you need a car, a truck or an SUV to meet your needs. Maybe a scooter.
2. Decide how much money you are willing to spend. Consider up front capital, operating costs, maintenance costs and insurance. Are you buying or leasing? Be prepared to spend uo to 10% of the original new car price on annual maintenance costs (depending on whether you do your own maintenance).
3. Do a title/lein check to make sure there are no leins and if you buy it, it will actually be yours.
4. Check the vehicle history for collision or write-off. A year after I totalled my Civic Si, a prospective buyer called me. The car had changed times several times since I totalled it and he wanted to buy it. There was no record of the collision, despite the legal requirement for this info to be passed on. This stuff happens all the time - don't get burned.
5. Become familar with common problems with the vehicle make and model you are considering. Escorts have known weaknesses (rear springs, tie rod ends, brakes). Dodges are nothing but a weakness (that's for you Fixtit). Use a forum such as FEOA for this purpose.
6. Price shop for the make and model of your interest. Autotrader magasines or websites can help. This will give you an idea of what to pay for the vehicle you are considering.
7. Buy with your head, not your emotions. This is essential. If it's too good to be true...it is.

MECHANICAL CONDITION CHECKS
1. Ask the seller why he is selling the car. You might be surprised what you can learn from this. You might also catch a liar or unscrupulous SOB here too.
2. Ask the seller about the maintenance history.
3. Check the compression (wet and dry) on each cylinder. This is a must.
4. Check level and condition of the following fluids: engine oil, tranny fluid, coolant, brake/clutch fluid. Check battery electrolyte level and strength also.
5. Don't be afraid of high mileage cars - this implies more highway driving, which mile per mile, is easier on the engine and tranny than city driving.
6. Check fuel pressure if you can.
7. Check vacuum if you can.
8. Check tires for unusual wear patterns.
9. Get under the vehicle and give it a good going over. Check brake lines, fuel lines, steering/suspension components, exhaust system, rotate tires to check for binding.
10. Take it for a good test drive. Do some city driving and highway driving. Check steering and braking capability.
11. Check that all indicating instrumentation and equipment works: lights, hazards, gauges.
12. Ensure no through body rust. This will be very expensive to deal with to get safetied.
13. Check brake discs/drums/pads/shoes for condition and wear.
14. After the test drive, let the vehicle sit for 15 minutes. See if any fluids accumulate under the vehicle.
15. Check to ensure A/C works and all other creature comforts (sunroof, windows, door locks and handles)
16. If something doesn't seem right, ask.
17. If you don't feel comfortable checking the vehicle over yourself, ask a friend or pay some wrench-head to go with you. It's worth every cent.
 

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I have nothing to add to this... I think that all this will definetly save people a lot of hassle.
 

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Good writeup.

But here's my amendment:

8. Always always spend the extra money and get the factory LSD option. Always. :D

How I personally get a rediculous deal on a car:

1. Very poor shape mechanically (out of tune/adjustment, but NOT "broken"
2. Very good shape on the exterior (no rust/dents)

Here's a tactic I've found that works. I talked a guy selling an EGT down from 1500 to 250 bucks with this tactic: Find EVERYTHING wrong with the car. Everything. Then, tally up how much it would cost to fix each one of the things right in front of the seller. For example, "Well, it needs a new exhaust, so that's 100 bucks, the coolant light is always going off, so it probably needs a new thermostat or radiator, so that's 150 right there... the tires are almost bald, and they'll cost 300 to replace..."

Basically what you do is you take a big, wet, juicy sh*t all over their hopes of selling the car. Make it look like the most worthless money toilet on wheels. It's psychology, yes, but it works. And it works really well. I honeslty think I could make a living reselling cars... but I can't afford the overhead of a decent leisure suit.
peace
 

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Also, here's another good tip.

Make an appointment to see the car in the morning (the earlier the better). Then arrive 15-30 minutes early, and park a little down the street. Chill there and see if the guy has to jump the battery, pour fluids into it, air a leaky tire, and other stuff. And if its early in the morning and the engine is already warmed up for no real reason, the person is probably trying to hide some sort of problem that happens when the engine is cold.

Bring a friend and then that person can help you point out stuff thats not good, and he can act like its a total p.o.s. which really helps. (like siragan said its all in the mind).
 

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Hehe. My thoughts exactly about pointing out the stuff wrong with it. Even at a used car dealer you can point out stuff. I'm about to buy a 95' Escort LX from a used dealer here and I'm gonna nit pick at it until Im satisfied. I'm definitely going to say something about the bumper since its a bit dented in and scraped up(yes, dented, I dont know how it dented and didn't shatter). Kudos to high.
 

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Im better i got my 93 LX-E for $300 cash and after rebuiding the engine(200 mor), it is a beautiful looking/running/driving machine
 

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pick the right seller

I've had better luck with older retired guys - they won't come down unrealistically just by giving them a lowball offer (that will backfre) but if you can make a connection with them on a personal level they may want to do you a favor.

I bought a '73 Duster for $75 because he had a PT Boat Veteran sticker on his car and I asked him if he'd ever read _They Were Expendable_ [about PT boats in the S Pacific]. His jaw dropped.

I got a Plymouth Colt for $100 and drove it for four years from telling the guy what a -good_ car it was, goin on and on, and then telling him that was all I could afford. He sold it to me because he wanted someone to appreciate the car.

Plus, older retired guys have nothing to do besides baby their cars.
 
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