How to Test Drive and Buy A Used Car

how to buy and test drive a used car

So the time has come. You’ve lost all hope in your old, no longer reliable vehicle. You’ve been high balled by every friend and family member trying to buy their car, you’ve lost trust in every dealership around you, and now your back is against the wall. You’re looking for options because you’re in need of a vehicle. You begin to think, and you realize that the only remaining option is to look for a vehicle privately. There are many platforms that you can use. Platforms such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, flyers, drive by’s are just a few of the options that may assist you in your search.

Knowing that it won’t be a dealership or have that new car smell, you narrow down the list and begin the search. Unfortunately, the list you have is not the list you need. You’re looking more into color or appearance and features, rather than what makes that feature work. Below you will find a list to help you when searching for a used vehicle privately.

Ignore How Dirty A Car Is

One thing that many people focus too much on is how dirty the vehicle may be while they are going over it. Some turn and go home once they see one too many cookie crumbs on the seats, or one too many spills that became sticky, etc. Ignore it.    

In order to find true value in something, you must look past whatever is not important. Basically, don’t judge a book by its cover. You can find a true diamond by overlooking a few small things such as dirt. You can easily clean and scrub whatever there may be. It may take you a few hours, but it won’t cost you anything and it’ll save you an extreme amount of money.

If The Seller Will Not Allow You Test Drive

Have you been through the process of purchasing your first car? Did you know out the gate it wasn’t going to be the coolest, newest, or even up to par in terms of maintenance. Are you able to figure out a vehicle’s worth and timeline most of the time by simply test driving it?

If the person’s house of whom you came to take a look at and test drive their vehicle, says no – then what? Maybe it’s loss prevention or theft safety precaution type of thing. So you give her wallet, car keys, etc. She says no. At this point, you may be wondering if the car even runs. Because in your state, once you give over the title and money, no matter if you find out there is no engine, that’s all your loss now. They can’t get sued, because you weren’t wise enough to test drive it and you paid for it. No matter how new or amazing the car looks, never purchase it without a test run.

What to Listen & Look For During A Test Drive

Test driving a vehicle for fun is a cool, joyful, fun adventure. But test driving a vehicle you’re about to pay thousands for, knowing you will be stuck with it, will make anyone nervous. And rightfully so.

When you are test driving, put your left knee up against the driver side door while in motion. Do you feel a different kind of vibration like a rumble? Chances are you will need tire work done soon. Not a huge problem, but it can grow into a large issue if not addressed.

While driving, listen for squeaks, squeals. If you hear something like that, you may need a few things tightened that have become loose. Or, they just may need to be lubricated.

While driving, turn the wheel each way completely (It’s best to do this in an open parking lot). If you hear any sort of thumps, knocks, strains, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t get things fixed asap, turn the car back around. You’re going to have bigger problems.

While driving, look at your dashboard. Look for lights on, speedometer, how fast or slow the car accelerates, etc.  If your AMP’s are going back and forth, this may not be the best ‘’Car ready’’ purchase. Once that dial hits zero, your car is no longer moving. Chances are it is your alternator or an electrical solenoid. These aren’t too expensive, but the labor to install an alternator may be a bit expensive if the engine compartment is cramped and the mechanic has to remove multiple parts to replace the alternator. This is a vital step to understanding the vehicle for what it really is. Now you’re getting into the heart and soul of the vehicle. If you expect to open the hood and see what you normally see in car magazines, sorry but there’s no chance. However, if you open the hood and find oil spills, fried wired batteries, rusted frames and a charcoal look over the top of most things, turn in the keys. This car has been abused. Also, check to see fluid levels and oil change stickers. This can tell you out of the gate is this car has been maintained.

Just because a vehicle drives smoothly when you test it, doesn’t mean it’s not about to exit onto that bumpy road. Be careful when searching, and never be in a rush to purchase. The seller can smell it if you’re anxious and most sellers will feed on that. What you see on the body is pretty much what you get. Always check to see if the frame or underbody has been rusted or maybe the vehicle is too low on one side and leaning to another.  This may sound like a lot, but knowing at first will save you many headaches, literally down the road ahead.

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