How to inspect used cars so you don’t get ripped off
Most used cars come “as is” or with a limited warranty. Evaluate the price against the cost of needed repairs.
A car should start easily and idle reasonably smoothly. Check that all warning lights come on with the ignition. Test-drive the car for at least 10 miles to give warm-running problems a chance to show up.
Reject a car if 1. you hear engine knocking; 2. the oil or coolant warning lights come on or gauge readings are abnormal; 3. an automatic transmission slips on acceleration, grinds or whines, or does not shift smoothly up and down: 4. the clutch shudders or the manual transmission grinds, squeals, or jumps out of gear; 5. there is more than 2 inches of steering wheel free play. roughness when you turn the wheel, or car wandering on smooth roads; 6. the body shakes objectionably at speeds under 55 m.p.h. on a decent road; 7. the exhaust blows blue smoke (oil) or it blows white smoke (water vapor) on a warm, dry day or for more than a few minutes on a cool day. Black smoke is usually a minor fuel problem.
Checking out a car Brake hard at 25 m.p.h.; the car should come to a straight stop. Some defects are normal with age: a car that rides poorly on rough roads may need new shock absorbers; poor braking may be correctable with work.
With the engine still running, look underneath for an oil leak. Have a trustworthy mechanic evaluate any such leak. Check all accessories. Except for wipers, their operation may not be critical but will affect price.
Look for lubrication stickers on the door or under the hood for evidence of regular maintenance or look in a private owner’s garage for signs of do-it-yourself maintenance.
Take the car to a professional mechanic. He can detect some problems, evaluate your road-test report, and tell you the cost of necessary repairs. if your state mandates inspection, he should tell you if the car will pass.