Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Love your Used car Salesman! A guide to swindling the swindler. PT-3
So here we are with a vehicle that we like and that has passed all the initial checks, its time for a test drive.
Start the engine (any blue smoke out the tailpipe? No? Good.) and turn on the headlights, test the brake, reverse and turn signal lights one-by-one as your helper verifies that they all work. While the engine warms up, have a look around at how the interior is laid out, find and familiarize yourself with the controls and display while you also make necessary seat and mirror adjustments and of course, get your seatbelt on.
An important consideration in the purchase of a vehicle is ergonomics and how comfortable the vehicle is- for you, the driver. Can you operate all the important controls without taking your eyes off the road? Can you find the lights, hazards, wipers, washers, turn signals and horn easily? What about the heating and A/C systems? The stereo? Do you like the layout? Are the seats comfortable? The correct height? Can you adjust the mirrors properly to give you a good view of the area behind you? Are the window and door controls/ handles easy to find and use? Keep these in mind as you drive the vehicle for the first time. Are the engine gauges functional and easy to see?
Try to find a quiet, wide open place during your test drive so you can hear noises that may or may not be normal. Some noises will be easier to hear with the windows up, some with the windows down. Feel through the steering wheel, seats and the floorboards for clunks or wobbles, vibrations or grinding. You will need to steer the car fairly abruptly back and forth to feel for looseness, noises, responsiveness, and re-centering of the steering system. Do you feel any binding, grabbing, vibration, pulsing or pull to left or right when you hit the brakes? Or are the brakes smooth and predictable, indicating all is well? You may want to include a car wash to your test drive to see if there are any leaks that become obvious with water drenching the car, simulating a heavy rain.
Accelerate and brake hard a few times each to feel for vibration or clunking anywhere. Accelerate while turning both directions, then do the same in reverse, again listening/ feeling for squealing, clunking, grinding, click or clatter, and any binding in the steering or suspension. You want to push the vehicle out of its normal operating regime and into its stress zone to hear and feel any odd noises or sensations. Now, be careful here, remember the idiom: you break it, you buy it. If you feel the car getting anywhere near its limits or your driving abilities, or you feel something that seems strange, back off and slow down. Don't let the test drive go into race mode. This condition can develop in mere seconds if you are test driving a 500+hp sports car or truck and can be identified by the big silly grin distorting your facial features. Generally run the vehicle through its paces while staying well within the vehicles abilities, your comfort zone and limits of your driving ability. With vehicle test drives its good to hear, feel and see what it can do, just do it safely, K? Remember you are looking for things that may need to be replaced, not cause a whole mess of stuff to need to be replaced sooner.
When you pull back in after your test drive, leave the engine running, and pop the hood again. Get out and again check for leaks or fresh fluids. Water on the ground under the dashboard area is normal- its condensation from the A/C system. Coolant is green (usually), ATF is red, motor oil usually brown, but can be clearish amber if still new. Look under the engine area on the ground under the vehicle- are there any drips, spots, or hot, burning smells? No? Good, all is well then.
If it passed all the tests and the price is right- you did research what FMV is for this machine right?- then its time to evaluate what you are buying for what cost. At this point I would suggest making an appointment with your favorite mechanic for a quick check up, or at least call and have a phone consultation to get his/her personal and professional opinion of it. Ask about what your mechanic knows about the car, what theses vehicles often need, common repairs, particular issues... Knowing what costs await you for repairs when you buy a used car can make it much easier to decide between options.
If the cost of the vehicle is low but it needs a fair bit of work to bring it back to safe and reliable functionality, it could still be a great investment. Ask questions, be skeptical and logical, the decision will be better informed and easier to make.
Good luck and safe buying. Til next time...