One of the good reasons for having an auto mechanic on your side is they can help you through all kinds of situations. It’s nice knowing you’ll get an honest answer to all of your vehicle questions.
While that may be important if you notice a squeak when you apply the brakes, or hear a noise as you drive through a turn, it’s equally important when you consider buying a used car.
Used cars have been through a lot as they travel down the road. Yes, it might look good from the outside, the paint might be in good condition, the interior might be spotless. But how do you know if the internal workings of the car make it a good used car?
That’s why knowing a reputable auto mechanic can help you out.
If you’re looking at buying a used car, it’s important to do your homework before you start the search.
According to AARP, the average mileage per year is between 12,000 and 15,000 miles. That means for a five-year-old vehicle, having between 60,000 and 70,000 miles on the odometer isn’t out of the ordinary.
The Bureau of Transportation states that today’s vehicles on the road average just over 11 years. The standard vehicle being built today can fully be expected to continue running through 200,000 miles and more, with some inching their way towards 300,000.
There are a lot of reasons to keep your vehicle that long. The obvious is to save money on the price of purchasing a new vehicle.
That also makes it worth the time to buy a vehicle only a few years old. You can easily expect a vehicle to give you years of quality life, even if you purchase one a few years old.
That’s one of the biggest reasons it’s worth your time to ensure you’re buying a quality used car.
Inspections aren’t required when you buy a used car
There aren’t specific laws that give you the authority to have an inspection before you purchased a used vehicle. However, the Federal Trade Commission does advise people on specific steps people should take before you buy a used car.
Some are obvious:
- Test drive the car on varied road conditions – on hills, highways, and stop and go traffic
- Determine the value before you negotiate the price
Still others are great advice:
- Ask for the car’s maintenance records from the owner
- Get an independent review of the vehicle’s history. You can check with the Department of Justice’s National Motor Vehicle Title Information System to find out information about the vehicle’s title, which can help you determine if the car has been in an accident, flood damage, and other possible risk factors.
And finally, they recommend considering hiring a mechanic to inspect the car.
If the seller is reputable and is sure of the condition of the car, they will be happy to allow an inspection to take place. If, however, they are hiding something, an argument about this process should be your warning sign.
What will a good mechanic check on a vehicle inspection?
There are certain things you can do as a potential used car buyer. You can perform a road test to see how the car drives. You can check the odometer for mileage. You can check the headlights and taillights to ensure everything is working. You can use visual cues to help determine how well the owner took care of the car.
But a good mechanic will go deeper into how the car operates. They look at:
Tire inspection – this is a good indicator for how well the car is maintained. They look for uneven wear at the inside or outside edges. They look for jagged edges in the tread. They look for uneven cupped patterns that may indicate suspension problems.
Test drive – a good mechanic is trained to pick up small noises that occur as you drive around. They take it through a series of tests, including highway driving, up and down hills, and in stop and go traffic, to see how it handles. Clunks, rattles, squeaks, and clicking noises can all be indicators of potential problems. If they note a sound, they can check it more thoroughly back in the shop.
Stop test – while it’s not something any of us should do on a regular basis, occasionally, you might have to slam on the brakes to come to a stop. The way your car brakes can tell you a lot. It’s also a good test before you buy a used car. In a safe area, doing a hard stop from 40 miles per hour will show how the braking system works. Does it pull to one side? Does it lock up? Do the brakes pulsate? A vehicle with all of its systems working correctly will stop in a straight line.
Fluid test – first and foremost, motor oil should be honey-colored and translucent. If it’s dark or has a sour smell, it could be a sign of a problem, and at the very least alert you to the fact that the previous owner didn’t change out the motor oil on a regular basis. It’s not the only fluid that should be checked. A mechanic will check for leaks, and ensure all other fluids are in good condition.
Of course, depending on where you go, mechanics can do a variety of other things to, depending on the age, make, and model of your car. Hooking it up to a diagnostics test can reveal hidden problems. Putting it up on a rack to look at the undercarriage, and giving the body a thorough evaluation can point out potential issues.
If you’re in the market for a good used vehicle, don’t overlook what a thorough inspection can do for you. It can be the difference between buying a lemon and investing in a quality car that will give you years of reliability.