There are all kinds of used vehicles out there, from the “beater” to some that are barely broken in because the owner got a newer model. You may consider yourself diligent because you asked the owner lots of questions about the vehicle, but the sad reality is, people tend to lie, embellish or exaggerate when they are trying to get rid of something they have to make a sale, whether it’s a vehicle or an item at a garage sale. The obvious tip is to make sure all systems are working properly, but the key is in making sure you check more than that.
Don’t fall in love with the looks of a vehicle upon first sight. You have to look underneath. You may not know exactly what you need to look for, or understand much of what you see. Take a friend who is mechanically knowledgeable, even if it means slipping him a cash token. It will be money well spent in the long run, trust me. If you don’t have a mechanic friend, some shops will do this for you for a small fee. Things to look for are leaks and damage, or if repairs have been done previously, check the area for further damage or if repairs were actually done properly. Check the brakes, drive shaft, steering components and U joints. An older vehicle will most likely have some rust on the axles, springs and frame. Make sure a hole cannot be poked through any parts of the metal and that it has not become weak or brittle. If this is the case, you need to decline this sale.
Shiny does not always mean new. Any auto body tech can make a car look good cosmetically, but why was it newly painted in the first place? It could be hiding rust and issues with the body of the truck. There is a possibility that the owner just wanted to get a few bucks more for it and all that was wrong was some surface scratches or fading. This is where you may not be told the truth, so without a professional eye, you may not get the info you really need. In that case, it would be worthwhile to have a service do a history report on the vehicle, which not only can tell you if it’s been in an accident, but also if there are recalls on the vehicle and other valuable information. This report is not a guarantee that the vehicle is totally perfect mechanically, but will reveal more than what the eye can see.
Get your ducks in a row before shopping to avoid an impulse buy that you will most likely regret after time. If you will never be hauling a boat or RV, do you really need a bigger engine that will give you less gas mileage? Do you need passenger room on a regular basis, or is the vehicle mainly for you and work? Will you be going off-road, in which case 4 WD could be necessary, but if not, you may be able to get along with 2WD for your needs. Make decisions beforehand regarding manual or automatic transmission, petrol or diesel engine, cloth or leather upholstery and bed size. Too often, if you leave yourself open to a sales persons’ dance, you may end up waltzing when you would rather be jitter bugging.