You already know the standard guidelines on 2nd hand car or used car buying:
1. bring a mechanic (or someone who knows cars) with you; 2. closely check on the car body for repairs or paint jobs done; and 3. make sure the registration papers are clean, legit, and updated.
Aside from that, here are a few more tell-tale signs that you may want to consider:
1. Tires tell a story
Are the tires worn out or mismatched?
We expect tires to get worn out, as much as we expect the car owner to replace them when they do get worn out.
The way the tires are maintained tells a lot about the way the car has been treated and handled. Unreplaced worn tires may mean a tendency for the owner to neglect important aspects of the car. If the tires are neglected, how sure are you that the “less visible” aspects like oil, filters, and batteries are treated well? Maybe not.
Now, if you see the tires have several different brands, be more afraid. Better to walk away.
2. Car already warmed up when you arrive
The best time to test drive a car is when it’s still cold or not yet used for the day. A cold startup can expose many defects: a difficult starter, busted battery, or worn parts that make noise when cold but become quiet when warm. If you test drive a car that’s already been warmed up, you may be missing out on important information that you will only discover the day after you have taken the car home.
3. The Check-Engine Light that doesn’t light up at all
If the Check Engine Light is lit up, it means there may be a problem with the car. But what if the Check Engine Light does not light up at all? In most cars, the Check Engine Light should light up even for just a few seconds during startup. If it doesn’t light up at all, be concerned. It may be because someone wants to keep it OFF so as to keep you from seeing it ON all the time.
4. Milky colored fluid in the radiator or engine
When oil and coolant/water mix, the resulting mixture looks very much like chocolate or mocha milkshake. If you see it in the car’s engine or radiator, it may indicate head-gasket issues, head warping, or other major engine problems. Don’t stick around to find out. Move on to the next seller.
5. Sellers that make you uncomfortable
If during your car inspection the seller seems hesitant to answer your questions, becomes defensive, acts rude or sneaky, plays dumb, or simply looks strange, better to just walk away. Be extra careful about sellers who are “selling it for a friend, ninong, tito, or officemate”. There are as many legitimate reasons as there are illegitimate reasons why the true owner cannot show up in your meetings. Proceed at your own risk.
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