- “How long have you had the car?”
- “What kind of maintenance have you done with the car”
- “Why are you selling the car?”
- “Are there any leaks or major mechanical problems?”
Ask these questions over the phone, and try to get a general understanding of the car’s shape before going out to see it, especially if its a long distance.
Saving time is key, you would be surprised how often people say “The car is flawless” on the ad. Asking these questions lets you determine if they are honest.
Set up an appointment to see the 88카 if you feel like the information you’ve gathered about the car matches what you’re looking for.
- Getting Ready to Meet and Test Drive
When meeting with a seller, I always bring:
- Scan Tool for Monitors / Codes
- Powerful Flashlight (I recommend Streamlight flashlights)
- Pivoting and extendable mirror to check for leaks
- My Drivers License / ID
- Cash (I bring cash with me, but leave it in the car. I only do this if the amount is under $3000. Anything past that I just go to the bank with the seller and get them the cashiers check or cash when the deal is done).
Anti-Lemon Used Car Inspection Checklist
Before the meeting
- Verify the sellers has the necessary paperwork, aka Pink Slip, proof of registration, and smog certificate (if required by state). Although not necessary, print out a copy of the bill of sale form.
- Use CarFax or Autocheck to run a VIN background on the vehicle. This is key!
- Set up personal guidelines to the maximum amount willing to spend on the car.
- Make sure you have the funds ready, or instant access to them in the payment form the seller prefers.
- Advise the seller you want the car to be COLD for your test drive. We want a cold engine to get a complete analysis. This is a key part to the used car inspection checklist!
At the car
- Engine Inspection – Use the combination of the pivoting mirror and flashlight mentioned above to peek behind components and around the valve cover, checking for leaks. Inspect everything carefully, pay special attention to the serpentine belt area and leaks around the valve covers.
- Check for Codes – Connect the scanner and make sure there are no engine codes. Make sure the monitors for smog are all completed – if not, be suspicious.
- Check the body panels and paint, does it all look even? Is the texture the same everywhere? Look for panels that are a slightly different color or hue, which may indicate a sign of collision that was already repaired.
- Check all the paperwork before starting the drive – make sure they own the car and that they have a pink slip with their name on it.
- Check tires. Are they a matching set? Good Tread? Any signs of uneven wear? Could mean bad alignment or an accident in the past that prevents proper alignment.
- Check brake pad thickness through the wheels if possible.
- Check maintenance records (see if big service items have been done, like timing belt and water pump if the engine is a timing belt engine)
- Check condition of oil. Open the oil filler cap and look under for any foamy, milky substances, which MAY indicate sludge or head gasket issues.
- Upon vehicle start up, check the exhaust pipe for smoke. Listen to the engine for any uneven running aka “misfire” and try to smell for coolant or oil burning off which would indicate a leak.
- Look over the serpentine belt(s) and all other engine components for any signs of damage, wear, or leaks.
- Peek under the car to check for leaks, rust, and damage.
During the Test Drive
- Engine Check – Make sure to use some power and get the engine to a high RPM (don’t redline someone else’s car). Have the windows down and constantly monitor for noise from the engine, as well as the suspension. Note how the vehicle idles, it should be smooth for the most part. Keep checking the instrument cluster for warning messages as well as overheating. Be keen to any burning oil or coolant smells.
- Brake Test – Come to some stops at different speeds/intensities and try to listen for screeching or grinding noises
- Alignment Check – During the test drive, while on a somewhat even road, let go of the steering wheel for a few moments and see if the vehicle drifts to one side. Keep in mind, most roads have “road crown” and will slightly cause all cars to drift to the right, but a barely noticeable amount.
- Transmission Check – Make sure the test drive takes at least 15 minutes, ask the seller for permission first. This will allow the transmission to fully warm up. For automatics, issues could potentially arise online when hot, and not be present when cold. You will feel jerkiness when the auto transmission is malfunctioning. For manuals, do a clutch test by engaging 4th gear at a slow speed and go wide open throttle – see if the clutch slips (the rpms will climb extremely fast like you are in neutral).
- Wiggle Test – At about 30 mph roll down your windows do a few quick left to right steering wheel maneuvers. Listen to the suspension and chassis – it should not make ANY noises while doing this.
- Suspension Check – Go over some bumpy roads, and take some angled driveways / turns. Listen for any binding suspension components which will present itself with a loud knock. Also listen for failing wheel bearings by rolling up all your windows and checking for a loud whirring rotational noise.
- Interior and Features – Finally, check all the features. This means A/C, reverse camera, navigation, etc. Check all window motors by rolling up and down the windows. Make sure everything is working to your desire.