How to choose a used car with good reliability history at good price
If you are planning to buy a certified pre-owned/used car from a dealer, a private sale or neighbor, it will do you a world of good to thoroughly read Consumer Reports for a safe used car buying experience.
Trouble-free used cars do NOT come just by a stroke of luck. It involves good research and a keen eye to spot potential problems. Choice of a right and reliable used car can save you angst about possible Lemon law issues sooner or later.
You can easily identify a good used car and eliminate potential lemons if you do not turn a Nelson’s eye for the following:
The Steering of the used car
With the used car idling, turn the steering wheel right and left.
- Check that there isn’t any slack or ‘play’ or clanking noise in the steering
- Excess play may indicate a worn steering gear or damaged linkage
- While driving at normal speeds on smooth, flat pavement, the car should not wander or need constant steering corrections
- A shaking steering wheel often indicates a need for a wheel balancing or front-end alignment, which are easily remedied
- However, this may also be a clue that there’s a problem with the drive line, suspension, or frame, which could mean expensive repairs are in order
The Suspension of the used car
- Check the suspension by pushing down hard on each fender and letting it go.
- The car should rebound softly, once or twice
- More than two severe rebounds indicate worn shock absorbers or struts
Drive the used car over a bumpy road at 30 mph.
- A car that bounces and slams at moderate speeds over common pavement may have a worn or damaged suspension
The Tailpipe of the used car
- A puff of white smoke upon start up is probably the result of condensation and not a cause for alarm
- Black smoke after the car has warmed up indicates an overly rich air-fuel mixture, due to a dirty air filter, a faulty oxygen sensor, or a faulty mass-air meter that measures the amount of air intake
- Blue smoke indicates requirement of expensive repairs
- Billowing white smoke indicates water in the combustion chamber due to a blown head gasket, damaged cylinder head, or even a cracked block requiring expensive repairs
Step on the Gas of the used car
While driving the used car
- Engine revving excessively before the car accelerates, indicates a misadjusted or worn-out clutch, or a damaged automatic transmission
- Though clutch adjustment is relatively an inexpensive service, a damaged clutch or automatic-transmission repair is extremely expensive
- Knocks and pings while accelerating indicate bad ignition timing or the overheating of engine
Recalls and TSB’s of the used car
Check to see if any recalls were issued and if recall service was performed.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.dot.gov; 800-424-9393) lists all official recalls
- Ask the seller for documentation on recall service
- If any recall work has not been performed on the used car you’re considering, it should be done as soon as possible
- Automakers are required to perform recall service free of charge, regardless of the vehicle’s age or how long ago the recall was issued
Check for any TSBs that were issued for the model you’re buying and if the seller had any necessary repairs performed.
- Technical Service Bulletins, or “TSBs,” are reports a manufacturer sends its dealers about common or recurring problems with a specific model, and how to rectify them
- TSBs are not typically safety related
- Manufacturers are not obligated to notify owners or pay for the repairs
- An automaker may pay for some or all of the work, if the owner asks them to
- Lists of TSBs can be found at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/tsb/index.cfm.
Web sites for advice, vehicle history report and information on buying used cars
- A vehicle history report from CarFax (www.carfax.com) or Experian Automotive (www.autocheck.com) alerts you to possible odometer fraud
- A vehicle history report reveals past fire, flood, and accident damage
- A vehicle history report indicates if a rebuilt or salvage title has ever been issued for the vehicle
- The vehicle identification number (VIN) on the top of the dashboard, near the driver’s side roof pillar can access you vehicle history report
- A vehicle history report would cost $15 and five minutes
- CarFax’s Web site provides advice and information on buying used cars
- From Consumer Reports