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Author Topic: Buying a used car?  (Read 2086 times)

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Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Buying a used car?
« on: April 24, 2012, 08:07:23 AM »
I'm thinking of purchasing a used car from an individual seller. I was wary at first, because I thought the price was too good to be true. However, after checking the car's blue book value, they appear to be selling it for roughly what the KBB says it should be worth. I want to go look at the car.

Don't get me wrong, I know my way around a car from a maintenance side of things. I can change my own air filter, check the oil, change a tire, replace a fuse, put in new wipers - all of that little stuff. But as far as knowing the... the... transmission from the gas tank, I'm not very well educated on that.

So I was hoping that those of you that have some experience could help me out. This is my checklist that I intend to use so far:
Check the tires to see if they are in good shape
Look under the hood for any obvious signs of a coolant or oil leak
Check underneath the car for evidence of leaks, also
Take car for a test drive, looking at the brakes, the e-brake, how it handles, etc.
After test drive, again lift hood to sniff for leaks or look for anything that doesn't look like it belongs

Um, that's all I can think of. >.> Pointers would be appreciated. This is the car that I'm hoping to look over. I'm a sucker for lemon-yellow. >.>

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2012, 08:47:34 AM »
You might want to look for a Carfax report or some other sort of car history report if you can find one.  Maybe have your own insurance company check for you if they offer that.  It lists any reported accidents and recalls. 

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2012, 08:53:44 AM »
*blushes* That's also on my list. Carfax seems like a given now... I'd almost expect anyone selling a car to provide the Carfax info. I know I plan to do so when I sell my car (although I don't know if anyone will want to buy my car, save for a junk yard or a salvage yard).

Offline Haibane

Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2012, 09:04:00 AM »
Having bought and sold several cars in my time with my husband in attendance you can often pick up hints of how well maintained it has been by:

1) The sellers' general demeanour, gender, age and their neighbourhood.
2) Always check the cars logbook or whatever its called in your country to ensure it has been regularly serviced and maintained. Ask to see the service or repair history.
3) Checking bodywork and trim for general scuffs, wear and such.
4) Always look at a car in good daylight and check carefully that the various body panels are all the same shade of yellow. A colour mismatch could imply an accident and respray.
5) Always drive it. You can often detect mushy brakes or a sloppy transmission after a quick drive.
6) Check all the doors and hood and trunk open and close positively and the coachlines match - if a door or hood or trunk doesn't line up correctly that too could be a sign of previous accident damage.
7) Consider it's mileage. In the UK about 12,000 miles per year is considered average. Less than this is a good sign, more a bad one. Apply the average mileage in your country with the same logic.
8) Have a good sniff of the interior and look for stains on cloth, seats and trim. A heavy smoker will leave their 'mark' on a car's cabin.
9) Its usually not worth asking questions of the seller but if you do, make sure they are direct questions that require an objective answer. Questions like "Has it ever been involved in an accident?" and "Has it been regularly serviced?" (and watch their body language as they answer) rather than questions that can get you a subjective answer such as, "Is the bodywork okay?" or "Does it drive well?"
10) Last of all, don't be 'trapped' by a car's colour. If its not exactly what you want, walk away; another will come along in due course.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2012, 10:46:03 AM »
If you have a mechanic you trust, include his shop on the test drive.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2012, 11:45:29 AM »
Those are really awesome suggestions. The owner indicated that he would have no problem running a carfax report, and the odometer currently has only about 108k miles on it. 12k miles * 8 years is 96k, and 12k miles/year seems like a really low amount anyway. So I think the mileage is fine.

I was worried for a bit because apparently that model of car comes standard with a manual transmission, but the owner told me that his is automatic. I can always learn to drive a stick, but I'd essentially have to add the cost of a new clutch to the cost of the car because of that.

He's going to take some pictures of the interior for me, later today. And he doesn't seem to be pressuring me; he told me to come out and look at it whenever I have time, not even a hint of "Well, I have another buyer..." so I take that as a good sign. If the car is good, then it would be just a matter of gathering up the dough to pay for it.

I'll have to figure out how to exchange money without feeling completely exposed (I am NOT walking around Fall River with over $4k worth of cash on me, no way no how) but that comes later. Waaaaay later.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2012, 11:50:03 AM »
Those are really awesome suggestions. The owner indicated that he would have no problem running a carfax report, and the odometer currently has only about 108k miles on it. 12k miles * 8 years is 96k, and 12k miles/year seems like a really low amount anyway. So I think the mileage is fine.

I was worried for a bit because apparently that model of car comes standard with a manual transmission, but the owner told me that his is automatic. I can always learn to drive a stick, but I'd essentially have to add the cost of a new clutch to the cost of the car because of that.

He's going to take some pictures of the interior for me, later today. And he doesn't seem to be pressuring me; he told me to come out and look at it whenever I have time, not even a hint of "Well, I have another buyer..." so I take that as a good sign. If the car is good, then it would be just a matter of gathering up the dough to pay for it.

I'll have to figure out how to exchange money without feeling completely exposed (I am NOT walking around Fall River with over $4k worth of cash on me, no way no how) but that comes later. Waaaaay later.

The money issue should be easily satisfied by a cashier's check. 

Offline Sarena

Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2012, 02:15:11 PM »
Agreed on both of Oniya's suggestions. 

If you have a trusted mechanic, I'd take the car to him/her and ask for a quick once over on then engine.  And a cashier's check is the best way to go.  If, God forbid, you were mugged on your way to buy the car, your bank could help you more easily than getting a money order.  And it won't leave you vulnerable to having to give some stranger a personal check as payment for the car.  I'd just let him know up front that you'd be paying by cashier's check.  It would be a big red flag for me if he absolutely insisted on cash.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2012, 02:23:14 PM »
Those are really awesome suggestions. The owner indicated that he would have no problem running a carfax report, and the odometer currently has only about 108k miles on it. 12k miles * 8 years is 96k, and 12k miles/year seems like a really low amount anyway. So I think the mileage is fine.

Herp derp, I meant 6 years.  ::)

The money issue should be easily satisfied by a cashier's check. 
Agreed on both of Oniya's suggestions. 

If you have a trusted mechanic, I'd take the car to him/her and ask for a quick once over on then engine.  And a cashier's check is the best way to go.  If, God forbid, you were mugged on your way to buy the car, your bank could help you more easily than getting a money order.  And it won't leave you vulnerable to having to give some stranger a personal check as payment for the car.  I'd just let him know up front that you'd be paying by cashier's check.  It would be a big red flag for me if he absolutely insisted on cash.

I do have a trusted mechanic, the same shop has been taking care of my cars now for years. They're really great guys and while they can be a little surly, they are also very good and very forthright. Thank god for that - I'm going to miss them when I move.

I actually wouldn't consider it a red flag if he wanted cash, because there have been a lot, a LOT, of CL scams around here lately where people give you a legit-looking check, take the stuff, and then the check comes back from the bank 20 days later as being invalid... after you've spent the money and are then on the hook for repaying it to the bank. My mom's been hit with an attempt at it twice (both times, she told the person to take a flying leap) that I know of.

I'm not bringing any cash, check, or anything with me until I've at least met the guy and checked out the car. By that time, I should have a better idea of whether he gives me the willies or not. I'll also have Mr. Trieste with me, so I won't be alone. Mostly, I'm nervous about buying a random car off of someone, you know? It's not like I'm picking up a sweater at a yard sale...

Offline Oniya

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2012, 02:36:03 PM »
I actually wouldn't consider it a red flag if he wanted cash, because there have been a lot, a LOT, of CL scams around here lately where people give you a legit-looking check, take the stuff, and then the check comes back from the bank 20 days later as being invalid... after you've spent the money and are then on the hook for repaying it to the bank. My mom's been hit with an attempt at it twice (both times, she told the person to take a flying leap) that I know of.

That's why I specified a cashier's check - that has to be 'purchased' at the bank (very small fee, as I recall), and it's then authorized by the bank that the funds are available. 

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2012, 03:10:05 PM »
Ja, my bank actually will issue me one cashier's check per day at no charge, so it's handy. The thing is, though I know the difference between a cashier's check, a personal check, and a money order, the seller might not necessarily. This area also has a lot of 'off the grid' types with their money, especially those who immigrated rather than being born here. So if he is 60 years old and has a thick accent, I wouldn't consider it a red flag if he wants cash. If he's my age with no accent, I would be a little more hesitant.

I suppose it depends on local culture.

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2012, 03:16:33 PM »
Do you know anyone who has a subscription to Consumer Reports?  If so, you can find a ton of information on how the type of car you're looking at has held up over the years in generalized testing. You can also find out other things, such as blind spot distances (39 feet to the rear for someone who is 5'1 in the car you're looking at, clicky.)  I know it's a pay thing, but I've always found it useful.

Offline Kurzyk

Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2012, 06:18:01 PM »
This isn't information relating to the mechanical side, but we used http://www.nadaguides.com/?gclid=CN2Z-4XPzq8CFcfb4AodKQxUHA at the credit union I worked at as a loan officer to get information on value. In case you need it, this is another source of price comparison and information that might help.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2012, 06:51:41 PM »
Thank you, Kurzyk.

Do you know anyone who has a subscription to Consumer Reports?  If so, you can find a ton of information on how the type of car you're looking at has held up over the years in generalized testing. You can also find out other things, such as blind spot distances (39 feet to the rear for someone who is 5'1 in the car you're looking at, clicky.)  I know it's a pay thing, but I've always found it useful.

It doesn't appear that I do. I even checked through the university just in case. That's a good pointer, though, thank you!  :-*

Online Scott

Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2012, 12:04:31 AM »
http://www.automobilemag.com/am/2006/chevrolet/cobalt/recalls.html

Looks like that car has had 3 factory recalls on it, if the prev owner didn't have them done might want to swing into the dealership and get them done... they should be free.

http://www.carcomplaints.com/Chevrolet/Cobalt/2006/

The majority of complaints about the car seem to be steering/steering column related issues, so if any of that feels sketchy it's something to think about.


Offline Haibane

Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2012, 07:20:22 AM »
The seller offering to take interior photos and not pressuring you makes him/her sound pretty genuine to me.

To save carrying cash maybe you could do a Paypal transaction on the spot? (laptop + wireless?)

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2012, 07:46:44 AM »
http://www.automobilemag.com/am/2006/chevrolet/cobalt/recalls.html

Looks like that car has had 3 factory recalls on it, if the prev owner didn't have them done might want to swing into the dealership and get them done... they should be free.

http://www.carcomplaints.com/Chevrolet/Cobalt/2006/

The majority of complaints about the car seem to be steering/steering column related issues, so if any of that feels sketchy it's something to think about.

Thank you, Scott! Looks like the power steering is part of the recalls that have been issued? I looked up my current car (2001 Malibu) on that site just to kind of get a feel for what was complained about and what people had listed as wrong. On my current car, the largest complaint was the leaking intake manifold - which was also under recall from the company. I got the problem taken care of for free and never had another problem with it. So I guess my question is whether the recalls usually take care of the problems like that or if my experience was especially rosy?

Also, who the heck puts extra wires in the steering column when power steering fluid works just fine? Seems stupid, even to me, and I'm not even a car guru. :P

The seller offering to take interior photos and not pressuring you makes him/her sound pretty genuine to me.

To save carrying cash maybe you could do a Paypal transaction on the spot? (laptop + wireless?)

I'll just have to work it out with the person and see what happens. I'm trying not to get myself set on this car until I've driven it. I'm trying really hard not to give in to my urge to be like, "SQUEE SHINY YELLOW CAR IS SO PRETTY BUY NOW". It's... difficult. >.>

Offline Torch

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2012, 08:00:11 AM »
I got the problem taken care of for free and never had another problem with it. So I guess my question is whether the recalls usually take care of the problems like that or if my experience was especially rosy?

I've had to take my current vehicle in for two recall issues, and the dealership fixed the problems just fine.

I think car manufacturers are pretty vigilant about things like that (at least nowadays as opposed to 30 years ago), and they want to avoid lawsuits if at all possible.  ::)

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2012, 09:19:06 AM »
Well, if Torch says it's ok...

ZOMG PRETTY SHINY BUY NOW WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I'm going to put a giant pink Hello Kitty recall on the hood.

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2012, 09:44:59 AM »
Or you could get one of these:


Offline Oniya

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2012, 09:46:59 AM »
Okay, that's it.  The Smart Car is the new VW Bug.

(Seriously, you can paint an old-school Bug with anything and it 'works'.)

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2012, 09:49:38 AM »
Oh, man. I so wish I could afford a smart car. I want one so bad.

Offline Cecilia

Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2012, 06:59:24 PM »
Here's a dream car for someone...too bad it's across the country from you!  What a DEAL.  Maybe you won't qualify since you don't have a beard, but the ad is pretty darn funny.

http://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/cto/2977737272.html


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Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2012, 07:10:28 PM »
*dies laughing*

Offline Oreo

Re: Buying a used car?
« Reply #24 on: April 26, 2012, 01:11:31 AM »
: ( It's gone.