Used car purchase CheckList


Old 05-20-15, 07:36 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: US
Posts: 370
Used car purchase CheckList

Hi everyone,
We're looking at purchasing a used car soon and I wondered if there had ever been a discussion here on things that you should look at while the car is on the lot. I've been told to have 'my' mechanic look at a car before buying but I've never had a dealer offer to let me drive the car off the lot without buying it first.
I know there are various sight-inspections you can do that will tell you a lot, along with checking the 'look, feel & smell' of the various fluids: oil, transmission and antifreeze, brake, power steering. Along with visually inspecting tire tread wear and looking underneath for any hidden 'accident' damage not visible from the outside.
Then when driving you'll want to note steering and engine/drive train for any unusual vibrations and noises during turns, gear shifts, etc...

We would like to get a GM brand, Chevy or Buick sedan, 4dr, 4/6 cylinder from a dealership; mostly for the limited warranty you get when purchasing from a dealership. I wondered if it would be appropriate to ask for the Service CheckList Inspection report used by their mechanics and possibly the State Inspection report as well. I'm guessing these are standard forms used by most dealerships. And, what about a list of outstanding or fixed Recalls given it's a GM vehicle ?

If you got a anything you would check or ask for when buying a car, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
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Old 05-20-15, 08:35 AM
Norm201's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 5,545
If you're buying from a reputable dealer (new and used cars) then you should be given an all points check and limited warranty (I forget the name that is commonly used) that should give you some piece of mind. So an independent mechanic is not an absolute necessity. However, you want to test drive it and in the process take it to a trusted but independent mechanic if you think it necessary.

If you're buying from an independent individual or perhaps just a used car lot then by all means insist on your mechanic checking it out. If they refuse then run, don't walk from that used car lot or indivudual. There will be hidden problems that they are trying to hide.

And remember you're buying a used car. There will be problems. Assume you will need to put about $500 to $700 a year into it just as a matter of course. If you don't need to then all the better.

Unless you are a mechanic no checklist is going to get you a better deal or a more reliable used car. Sure there are basic things to look for but price will usually reflect general quality and condition. Use K-B book as a guide. State inspection will cover the basic safety issues.
Old 05-20-15, 03:49 PM
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 65
I think both of you have good ideas. I would add that it depends on several factors , such as age of the vehicle, mileage and general appearance. If you're looking at a late model GM with relatively low miles, it should still have a manufacturers warranty left on it. If it's an older or high mileage vehicle I'd be more inclined to have a mechanic check it out.

In ALL cases I would get a carfax report or a similar report from one of the other providers. Many dealers today will provide a copy free of charge but being the conspiracy theorist that I am, I generally like to get my own report. You can actually get an app for your smart phone to check it while on the car lot.
Old 05-25-15, 04:31 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: USA
Posts: 155
I would call around and get an extensive/comprehensive pre-purchase inspection. Used car dealers, including Toyota, have their car engine steam cleaned so you cannot tell if there are oil leaks. This types of inspection costs more money and could take up to 1 hr or 1.5 hrs. Some may cost as much as $200.

I would look at craigslist or something like that for an individual private sale with no major accidents. Dealers don't like to let their cars go off the lot.

I learned this by experience.
Old 05-26-15, 04:41 AM
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Try this for a first step. Talk to your usual mechanic [assuming you have one you trust] and ask him for make/model recommendations with your criteria. He may be able to steer you away from some that you might otherwise consider. IMHO any car lot - dealer or independent - that won't let you have the car checked out by your own mechanic is not someone I would do business with. This especially applies (though not in your case as you are talking dealership) to any lot that is BH-PH; they are notoriously overpriced and shaky mechanically.
Old 05-26-15, 05:19 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2013
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This especially applies (though not in your case as you are talking dealership) to any lot that is BH-PH; they are notoriously overpriced and shaky mechanically.
Tow-Guy, please translate.
Old 05-26-15, 06:55 AM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Northern Minnesota
Posts: 1,452
I've never heard of it either. I think this is what he means:

Buy Here Pay Here
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Buy Here Pay Here refers to a method of running an automobile dealership in which dealers themselves extend credit to purchasers of automobiles.[1] Typically, purchasers of cars at BHPH dealerships have poor credit history, and loans have high interest rates.[1] BHPH can provide options for those unable to meet credit standards elsewhere.
Old 05-26-15, 07:08 AM
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Makes sense. Learn something new everyday.
Old 05-26-15, 08:25 AM
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The first thing to do is look at the exhaust. If it's white with a blue tint, that means that it's burning oil. Walk away.

I always ask them if I can jack them up. I like to check the front end. If they say no, walk away. I keep a jack with me. Grab a tire & shake it as if you are trying to turn it. It shouldn't have more than a 1/4" play in it.

If the transmission fluid is brown or smells burnt, walk away

Look at the space between the hood & the fender. the same thing with the trunk. It should be the same space all the way up & down. It's the same as looking at a door, in your house.

I have never owned a new car. Those are just a few of the things I do.
Old 05-26-15, 07:28 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: USA
Posts: 155
If the car is jacked up, see if you can tell if there is any oil leaks from the steering rack or steering boot.

The first mechanic looked but did not pricked the power steering boot and the inspection report was good. There was no evidence of power steering oil leaks. After I made the purchase, I had two other mechanics inspect also for peace of mind and they prick the boot and oil gushed out.

Otherwise it looked fine. I bought the car anyway but it costs about 1K to replace with an aftermarket power steering rack.

I called around and asked the costs of a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection and what they do. The first mechanic was rated good on and I even looked under the car when it was raised up. But he didn't pricked the boot.

I paid for all three inspections.

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