Buying a Used Car and getting it checked out

kashka_katJune 8, 2007

Hello all,

think I'm going to start used car shopping in the $2000-5000 range and would like to be able to consider buying from a private party. The problem is, I would like to get it checked out by a mechanic before purchasing but it seems like that the way people do usually business around here is that you pay cash and you don't check anything out. It can be really competitve for the good ones - you'll go to someone's house and by the time you get there it's already been sold and gone.

I don't want to do that because to be honest I just am not that car savvy and I dont want to get screwed. A friend of mine never bothered to get her cars checked out and she continually got these disasters including one that looked absolutely gorgeuous... but dropped about a gallon of oil every 2 days.

So... what would yall suggest? I was thinking if I really like one I would offer the seller a deposit to hold the car... or maybe give them $50 they could keep whether I bought the car or not. Is there any customary ways of handling this kind of situation?

t. i. a.

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In the $2000.00 to $5000.00 range you must be careful.Because that is high mileage older model territory.Ussually replaced for a reason.Not just because they decide they want a new car.

The mechanic you trust might tell you its a solid car.But maybe he might feel he will make a fortune in repairs.To him thats a good car!He will also charge you to tell you what his fortune cookie saids.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 9:40PM
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Do you know (or can you find) someone who is "car-literate" and whom you could "bribe" (money/beer/brownies/whatever) into coming with you to look at cars? While a good mechanic's examination is best, a serious hobbyist could do a good job of identifying most of what may be wrong. At this price level, there is no guarantee that any part will last very long; the best you can hope for is to avoid the obvious existing and soon-to-be problems.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 11:21PM
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The thing to remember is that buying any car is a gamble. New ones have a warranty, with an accompanying big price tag. A used car is more of a gamble unless you know who's selling it and how it's been cared for. Even if all's well, things still break.

You can reduce your chances of unpleasant surprises by deciding on a year, make, model ahead of time and look only for that car. The year can vary a little as long as the design hasn't changed much. Then educate yourself on that particular car before you go shoping.

When you get an idea of what you might want to buy, do some research as to what the maintainence costs for that vehicle are. IMO, forums like this are a good place to look. There are forums for honda, toyota, chevy, most anything you can think of. After doing the research, you might conclude your first choice wasn't a good one and explore something different.

Keep in mind all cars need things. Belts, hoses, coolant changes, spark plugs, wires and such every 30k. Transmission service at 30k to 100k. Some have a timing belt that needs to be replaced at 100k. Brake life varies, for me they last about 70k at a time. ect.

Read through the forums to see if the particular model you're considering has any common problems. Some engines seem to develope sludge easier than others. All will if neglected. If the previous owner hasn't changed the oil as often as he should, or used dino oil when synthetic was required, there could be a serious problem on the horizon. Is it a car that needs a timing belt every 100k, it's a $1000 service, and the vehicle has 110k on it now and never been changed? Something to consider.

Don't forget to check the tires. If the tread is about gone, that's another $200+ you may end up adding to the original price tag before you know it. Easy to overlook that kind of thing while admiring the shiney paint.

Keeping all that in mind and tenatively making a choice, it'd be nice if the owner would let you take it to someone for a look see. They can check for brake wear, tire wear, condition of the exhaust system, ect. Often times an experienced person can tell if a vehicle as been pretty well maintained or totally ignored with a visual inspection.

If you buy off a car lot, keep in mind those guys don't know a thing about the vehicle and don't want to know a thing about it. They'll also clean the hec out of it. Though it's very nice to be looking at an ultra clean used car, all that cleaning may have hidden it's true condition.

If you want to be even safer, keep $1600 or more available for things the car may need that you and everyone else may have overlooked. If you find out after the fact that it needs a water pump or something, that's ok. You predicted it might need a thing or two and got the money to cover it.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 11:57AM
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Thank you but... I do have a mechanic that I trust completely. I want to have him check whatever I decide I want to buy, so how can I talk a seller into letting me do that?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 2:45PM
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Thank you but... I do have a mechanic that I trust completely. I want to have him check whatever I decide I want to buy, so how can I talk a seller into letting me do that?

Similar to buying a house.
The sale is contingent upon the vehicle inspection.
I think if the seller refuses
to allow a mechanic to check it out, take a pass.

You setup the appointment with your mechanic.
Afterwords you can renegotiate the price minus the repair items.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 10:23AM
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Here is the other end of things. I've been a mechanic for
over 32 years.( not fun ). I would NEVER EVER go with anyone to check out a car,EVER. I've been burned a few times. How do i know the motor isn't hooped and the owner of the car put 50 weight oil in it to keep the bearings
quiet ? Now after the new owner ( you ) changes the oil the motor knocks like there is no tomorrow. Now i look like an ass hole. I've actually seen people feed cork gasket material into a differential to keep the gears quiet. I've seen upper and lower ball joints filled with silicone sealer to keep them from moving if someone tests them. What are you going to say to your machanic when the car he,or she tests and says it is good when the transmission packs it in in 1000 miles ? that is something
NO mechanic will ever know unless the transmission is pulled and opened up. Don't mean to scare you but this is the other side. the mechanic's side. what about 1/4 lb. of
pepper in a leaking rad ?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 7:59PM
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What are you going to say to your machanic when the car he,or she tests and says it is good when the transmission packs it in in 1000 miles ?

Jeez. Glad I don't live in your neighborhood. :-p Seriously, though, I don't think it's reasonable to expect a mechanic to always get the diagnosis right, anymore than I would expect that from a house inspector or even a medical doctor. Anyone who is buying a used car and expect anyone other than the owner to know the complete history is kidding themselves.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 9:49PM
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You can only do what's reasonable, and expect an honest mechanic to do the same. I recently helped my daughter buy a used car. I took pains to take it to a shop that I had dealt with to be checked, and it had a MD safety inspection, which is pretty rigorous. Nevertheless, it now has started to make noise in the rear and needs the sway bar bushings replaced. I don't blame the mechanics for this, or the previous owner. It wasn't making noise when we bought it, and the (other) shop that she took it to for the problem took some time to find it. My point is that it's a car with over 100K on it (probably similar to the mileage that the OP will get), and these things happen with an older car. But there's a lot that a mechanic can find, just by putting it up on the lift and using their experience to look for the signs. Not every seller is dishonest. I wonder what kalining is advising the OP to do?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 7:42AM
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Steve, guess he's saying I should take the bus!

You said it well-- all I'm looking for is to improve my odds against getting screwed. Life itself is a risk. No guarantees.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 12:23PM
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