Columnist gives used car tips

Richard Howell


One thing a student can’t go without is a car. A car is a very important item for a college student or most any adult. The problem is, not everyone has the money to buy a brand new car. Buying a used car is like buying anything used, you don’t have any idea what kind of deal your getting most of the time. There are plenty of students who buy a used car that breaks down within a few months or even a few weeks. You can get a CARFAX on a used car, but this isn’t going to prevent all problems, because not everything is reported to the CARFAX Company.

When buying a used car, there are several things you want to keep in mind. These simple tips could be the difference between you buying a good car or your next yard ornament.

First, you will want to look at how many people have owned the car. The more owners, the more likely the car is going to have something major wrong with it. It may not even be noticeable. The real key is to try to find cars that have only been owned by one person or family (one-owner vehicles). These cars have the best potential to be good cars for you.

Next, you need to know the right questions to ask the owner. Here, your main goal is to make the owner think you know a little about cars. If you are successful, there is a bigger chance they won’t try to lie to you. If the car has over 60,000 miles on the odometer, it should have had the timing belt changed. If the car is high mileage, ask when the timing belt was changed. You can also ask when the car had its last tune-up, and if the car has ever been in an accident. Check this information against the CARFAX and ask questions about any differences.

After asking a few questions, you want to look around the car. Focus your attention underneath the hood, in the tail pipe, and inside the car to examine how well it has been taken care of compared to its mileage and age.

Underneath the hood there are a few things that need to be checked. The first is the cleanliness of the engine. If the engine is dirty, then it probably hasn’t been taken care of at all. If the engine is too clean, the owner might be trying to hide an oil leak. Take the oil cap off and look down in the head. If you can see slimy black stuff, the car most likely hasn’t had proper oil changes, ever. If this is the case, it would be a good time to walk away. Also, check and see if the battery cables are corroded. A person who takes care of his or her car will not let the cables be corroded because it negatively effects the battery and alternator.

Outside of the car, you want to look at is the tail (exhaust) pipe on the car. Stick your finger in it to see if there is wet black goo inside. If there is, then the car burns oil. This could mean the piston rings are fried and the engine is about finished. However, if the car has over 135,000 miles, it’s going to burn oil more times then not.

So, if you have to buy a car, go prepared and it might save you from buying a lemon or even get you a good deal. It is your money; do you want to just throw it away?