A friend asks about a couple older cars that they are considering buying just to get back and forth to college. The first is a Van and the other is a Commuter Sedan. Neither of them have extremely high resale value which is good for them and the prices that the owners are asking are below NADA Book Value. The Van is going for $1000 and has about 125,000 miles and the Sedan is only $500 has just over 200,000 miles. They are asking which they should get and what they should look for when making the purchase.
Since this is a commuter vehicle the sedan that gets 27mpg vs the Van that gets about 19mpg is a better choice even though it has more miles. They expect to keep the vehicle about a year and when making this consideration you have to start with this thought that the Sedan for $500 is basically a throw away vehicle. They can probably get another 100,000 miles out of it but if they only get 25,000 then if something large breaks they can just put it up for sale and maybe get $300 back to put towards something else. There is always someone out there that will buy a used car for parts even if they don’t need it for driving. They might need the seats or windshield or whatever and having a $200 non driving parts car is great for them.
I informed the buyer that they should offer $400 and see if the seller will come down a bit. You should always do this even if you think the price is fair the owner knows more about the car than you do and that extra $100 she saves can be put to good use by getting an oil change and cleaning the car up. In another How To I will go over what you should do to a new used car when you first get it but lets get to the checklist of things to look at when you are considering a new used car purchase.
Inspection Checklist For Used Cars
People do strange things to cars that they are trying to keep on the road for a few more miles so its important to go over the entire vehicle the best you can with the time and ability you have.
You will want to walk the car and look for problems and then take it for a test drive. When you first get there you want to start the vehicle and let it run so it is fully warmed up. You don’t want a overheating problem to go unnoticed so let it run as you inspect the rest of the vehicle then take it for a pretty long test drive and see if it has good power and drives safe.
Things to check on your walk around
Check all the glass for chips and cracks and windows for operation
Check that all the doors, trunk and hood open and close easily
Check all the door locks
Turn the headlights to High Beam
Have Someone operate the turn signals and check them all
Check the Horn
Check the Wipers and Washer Pump
Check that all the tires are the same size and manufacturer
Check the tread of the tire for strange wear problems
Check the rubber boots on the Axels for tares
Check the Engine it should not be really dirty or oily
Check the date on the battery is less than 3 years old
Check the oil does not have metallic particles in it
Things to check on your Test Drive
Make sure the car is warmed up before you drive it
Test the brakes in forward and reverse with a hard stop
Drive the car in all the gears, Automatics use 1 & 2 gears
Make sure the car drives straight when you take your hand off the wheel
Listen for any clunking of the suspension when you start or stop
Make sure the car does not overheat run the engine over 15mins
Make sure the car stops straight when you brake
Make sure the power steering works and doesn’t make noises
Things To Get With Your New Used Car
Make sure you get all the keys and you should get 2 keyfobs for the door locks/alarm
Never buy a car without a title if the owner says they will give you a bill of sale but not register the car to get a title just walk away from it unless you are buying a parts car but even then you risk having a stolen car or one with problems such as a bank lean.
Buying a used car always has risks and when a car is older or has a lot of miles you can expect that there will be some problems you will need to fix.
In our friends case they can probably expect to put a couple hundred dollars into cleaning up and fixing small things but they should check the vehicle to make sure it is safe to drive and nothing major is wrong with it.
In the end a $500 car is less than the cost of a Lawn Tractor or Moped Scooter so you can’t really complain even if it dies in a couple months. You take that risk but you should at least do some inspection of the vehicle to make sure you aren’t buying a car that should be in the junkyard.
My first car cost me $75 and it could do burnouts for as long as you held the gas peddle down. It was a good car for the price and I even removed the engine to use it in another vehicle.
You can find decent deals and you may find a car that an owner just wants to upgrade and with our friend well she will be selling this car again in about a year and the next owner will have to do the same inspecting and repairs that she did.