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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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