Used car and truck buying guide

A comprehensive list of the questions to ask, the tools that you will need and the items that you should review when purchasing a used car

## Buying a used vehicle ![Used Car](/static/car_app/img/red-car.jpg) Used vehicles are often the best values you’ll find in the automotive market. This is especially true for models just two or three years old. Buying a used car makes sense financially, because someone else has already paid for most of its drastic depreciation in value. Not only is the price lower than a comparable new car’s, but continuing ownership expenses such as collision insurance and taxes are lower, it also provides an opportunity to get a nicer car than you’d be able to afford new. It is hard to find a starting point when looking for a car. There are so many variables to take into account it is difficult to know where to begin. That is why we put this guide together. It will give you a step by step process to help you with one of the toughest financial decisions that you will make. The first and arguably most important step is to determine what you can afford. Here is a site that will quickly give you a rough idea of what you should be looking at. Now that you have a price in mind, and a car that you are interested in. It is time to contact the seller. Some questions you can ask the seller to help determine if you want to go and see the car could be: * What is the reason for sale? * How long have you had the car? * How many owners has it had? * Is there any outstanding finance on the vehicle? * When was the last full service carried out on the vehicle? * Has the car been imported and if so, have all relevant charges been paid? * Do you have documented service history? * Has the car ever been in an accident? * Are you the registered owner of the car? If you like the answers that the seller provided the next part is to go see the vehicle. Obviously you want to get a vehicle that is in good shape and the best way to ensure that is to have a mechanic check it out. However, doing that for every car can get a bit expensive and you can do some preliminary screening before you go and see the car. A bit of preparation will help you narrow down which cars you want your mechanic to take a look at. ## Before you go! One of the new things that have come on the market in the last little while that will help you do this is a bluetooth obd2 (OBD2 stands for On Board Diagnostics) scanner. This plugs into a port on the car (normally under the steering wheel) and pairs with an app on your smartphone to give you diagnostics information. If the car you are looking supports OBD2 the scanners can be a great asset. They will give you access to the information that the car’s sensors providing insight into the condition of the engine and how well it is running. With a bit of googling you should be able to find what the regular readings are for the car or truck you are looking at and use this information to help make your decision. Which OBD2 reader to get depends on what phone you have. ## iPhone For Apple’s iphone or ipad there are a few options. Dashcommand and Rev are probably the two most popular ones. At the time of writing Dashcommand ($11.99 USD) is considerably cheaper than Rev ($45.99 USD) and has a higher rating. It is important to be aware that Dashcommand also has in app purchases in order to get all the information that is available. It is a little difficult to track down the proper OBD2 scanner that will work with either of these apps but if you read about them on the app store they give some information on that. An OBD2 scanner that has reviews stating it works well with Dashcommand is this one A third option for iPhone is the BlueDriver. It bundles the software and hardware together so you don't have to worry about compatibility issues but is more expensive than the two mentioned above. You can find more information about it by clicking the link below. ## Android The most popular option for an OBD2 scanner for Android is Torque. It comes in a paid ($4.95 USD) and a free version. The free version has ads, doesn’t support the same amount of cars and hasn’t had it’s user interface updates in a while. A highly rated OBD2 scanner on amazon that works with torque is this one. Before you purchase either any of these it is important that you make sure that the OBD2 scanner is supported by the vehicle that you are looking at or else you will be wasting your money. To get an idea of what they can do and what you should be checking for here is a youtube video (http://www.cnet.com/videos/car-tech-101-obd-ii-apps-and-dongles/) of the apps running. Other good items to bring are a magnet, which will help find any areas where there has been bodywork done on the vehicle and a good flashlight to check out the vehicle if there is inadequate lighting. Also a pen, paper to write down notes to help you keep track of issues that you observe when looking at the car. Now that you have all that in place and here are some things to look at when you go and see the car. ## Viewing the Car or Truck ### Visual * All panels fit? * Any unusual gaps? * Is car symmetrical? * Tires – Tread even? Are they a known brand? * Keys – how many sets? * Trunk Check - Is it damp inside and pockets either side? * Lift Carpet - Is there moisture? * Spare Wheel - is it there? Tread ok? * Locknut there? * Tools there? * Trunk closes ok? Does it line up? * Original Badges there? * Windshield free of cracks? * Body panel colors match? * Magnet adheres to all steel body panels? (this may scratch the paint, please be careful) * Is it a fresh paint job? (if yes, it could be to conceal rust) * Free of body scratches? * Free of body dents? * Windshields wipers and blades fully functional? * Headlights and directional lights intact and fully functional? * Do the windows have security numbers? Do all of these numbers match? * Does the front or back bumper look like it has been replaced? Sometimes the condition of the license plate can provide a hint * When bouncing the vehicle's corners, no creaking noises are made * All corners respond the same when bouncing * Engine Check * Any rust inside? * Ask if the timing belt been replaced?(look up the suggestions on timing belt maintenance for the make/model) * Antifreeze level is acceptable and is green * There is proper level of brake fluid in the brake fluid cylinder * Free of fluid or oil leaks * Oil filler neck not coated with thick, black deposits * Battery terminals free of corrosion * Oil dipstick free of dark, black oil. Is it at the right level? * Exhaust pipe emissions are neither blue (indicates engine burns oil) or black (indicate excessive gas consumption) * Transmission fluid looks clean, not dirty or gritty * Check if engine is warm. If so the car may have trouble starting cold ### Interior Check * Steering wheel overly worn? * Handbrake overly worn? * Do the seat belts function smoothly? * Is the carpet damp? What about under the pedals or dash? * Do all the buttons and dials function as they should? * Is the seat overly worn? * Do all the doors open and close freely? * Trunk opens and closes freely * Lacks a heavy scent of air freshener (may indicate something is being concealed) * All seats adjust properly * Power windows operate properly * Sunroof opens and closes properly (if applicable) * Car alarm works (if applicable) * Trunk and driver-side door lock and unlock with key * Hazard lights function properly * Running Engine Check * First Key postion - Do all trouble lights in the dash light up? * Engine starts easily * Any strange noises? * Use OBD2 scanner to check for error codes and sensor information * Radio – Turn on/off – Volume up/down – CD Player working (once tested keep radio off, you want to listen to the car, not to music) * Test Drive * Should be at least 15 minutes * No dashboard warning lights remain illuminated * Heater works * Air conditioner works * Windshield wipers work * Windshield wiper fluid dispenses properly * Headlights, including brights, work properly * Vehicle rests levelly * Roll windows down to be able to hear the engine more clearly * Rev car up all gears and down all gears. * High Rev – any blue smoke or knocking noises? * Test brakes – soft stop. Hard stop – Any weird feeling? Do the wheels wobble badly? * Automatic Transmission - Transmission neither slips nor delays when driving * Manual Transmission - Each gear shifts properly * Manual Transmission - No grinding noises in reverse * Vehicle steers straight and does not pull to one side when applying brakes * Parking brake engages and disengages freely * Wheels do not lock when applying anti-lock brakes (if applicable) * Vehicle does not drift to one side without prodding. Keep in mind a road that is on a angle will pull the car to one side a bit * Vehicle is stable; no shaking or vibrating at low or higher speeds * No resistance in the steering wheel when turning * Turn the vehicle in a tight circle. Listen for clicking or clunking noises ### Miscellaneous * Car manual located in the glove compartment * Instructions included for any accessories * Service and repair records available * Owner has title * Further research * You can obtain a carfax report here to get a vehicles history and to see if it has been in any accidents. A Carfax report provides you with information regarding the vehicle's title and registration history, accident history, service history, and a few other pieces of information. That is it! Those are all the suggestions we have at this point to help you find the car of your dreams. Hopefully you find it useful.