JIM’S “USED CAR” BUYING TIPS:

  • Looks – can be and are deceiving sometimes. A nice polish job doesn’t mean the car has been cared for but does pump up the price. You will have to look a little deeper. Condition of many things combined makes for a “Clean Car.”
  • Paint – is almost always perfect from the factory. No runs, no dust or sanding marks under the paint. Rocker panels at the bottoms of the doors are “rubberized” to resist dings and chips and are orange peeled or rough. Paint on trim or rubber strips is a sure sign of a repaint. A repaint typically will not last as long as the factory paint. Use light to look at the paint from different angles. Orange peel looking finishes instead of mirror are almost always signs of repaint. Do all the different body parts match colors? Stand back and look carefully. Good “blend” jobs can be hard to spot.
  • Doors and body panels – are all the gaps around the doors and hood lines the same? They were very near perfect when it was new. These areas where there are large differences may indicate previous body work and potential problem areas. Open and close all the doors and trunk and the hood. You’re going to have to sooner or later anyway but continue on with all the sills and hinge points of the body. Bolts that have been removed and replaced will have scratch marks and are usually obvious, indicating a repair of some sort. Investigate to see if you can find the reasons why.
  • Broken Lenses – are expensive and will lead to other problems.
  • Interior – condition tells a lot about the person(s) that owned it previously. Torn up, average or excellent shape definitely has an effect on price.
  • Tires – do they brand/series match (same type tread)? Evenly worn? Bald, just OK or NEW?
  • Engine compartment – Oh my! “Close it again quick”, is not the right answer. This is where the problems hide. Belts, hoses, filters, wiring harnesses, fluid levels and conditions (ie: clean or dirty?) battery (ie: clean or dirty, new or old?), spark plug wires, motor mounts, oil or other fluid leak evidence, and don’t forget to look underneath the car. Look where the grunge hides from the front to the rear of the engine compartment. Clean, somewhat grimy, or well oiled (not desirable)?
  • Drive the car – Listen for noises, does it track straight? Hold the wheel tightly and “feel” the car, does it walk around by itself or track solid and very responsive to your inputs? Is it smooth over bumps or can you “feel” every crack and pebble in the road?
  • Salvage titles – only means that a monetary decision was made to not repair the vehicle after a theft or accident. Insurance companies only bet on sure things. They don’t gamble on whether or not to repair if the estimate gets above 75% of its value. Too many hidden problems can cost them money. So vehicles are sold as “salvage” in auctions and get recycled. Caution and in-depth inspections are highly recommended. You can get nice deals on repaired cars if they are repaired correctly.
  • Check with your bank – is it priced right for the market place and the popularity or lack of? Most bookstores and the Web have pricing guides. Internet searches on VIN numbers are useful to track all kinds of things. When, how and where it has been sold, and even accidents show up more often than not.
  • Wholesale is about trade in value. But that doesn’t mean that’s what it is worth as a trade in. That’s a “whole other story”. sAverage value is set for “average condition overall”.
  • Top Retail – Showroom condition, low mileage, excellent mechanical condition, “A cream psuff”.
  • If you like it……..take it to a professional for a closer look just to be sure. If you did your part well, you will have an opinion of the car before hand. Now let a trained professional look it over, too and use their opinion to make your final decision.
  • Some cars are definitely worth putting money into, if the price reflects its true condition.