No one wants to buy a ruined car unless they're learning how to fix things. Even people who shop for the cheapest used cars under $1,000 are just trying to find the least amount of trouble for their budget, and it takes a nearly mechanic-level of experience to find some of the trickier problems. To stay safe when looking for problems that an owner may have missed--or may have covered up--here are a few inspection points for the most expensive parts of used cars.
Easily Replaced Parts
If you're looking for a car that provides a nice drive and nice savings, don't follow the masses by looking for something that will "last". Lasting is such a subjective and difficult quality, since it depends on the previous owner(s) as much as the car's make and model.
Instead, look for cars that mechanics enjoy working on. These are vehicles with parts that are easy to replace, and often parts that are shared by other makes and models. Look for "sister cars" or vehicles that share the same engine, transmission, suspension, or other more expensive components.
Banana Peels, Sawdust, Nylon Tights, And Other Dishonest Additives
In a car's gearbox, sawdust fills the gaps in gears that have been worn out from too much friction. This happens from normal wear and tear over decades, but could betray a leaking or burning oil issue as well. Oil is necessary to keep gears and other moving parts functional at high speeds without breaking away metal at high speeds.
Sawdust and banana peels aren't useful for modern cars (made after the 2000's), but some newer tricks can be a problem. Nylon tights, stockings, or hose can work well for long enough to get the vehicle away from a car lot, yard, or auction. By the time the material breaks away, you're usually too far to take the vehicle back quickly and likely unable to get the vehicle towed easily. It's preying on the poor in some ways.
Thankfully, there is protection against being stuck with a bad car purchase. Cars are considered lemons when they have constant, unfixable problems, or have major problems that are covered up. There are lemon laws for every state, but the key point is to never pay in cash if you can help it. If you have to pay in cash, you must record proof of your purchase, preferably with a camera.
Used Car Lots And Test Drive Agreements
For any testing, a pre owned car dealer may be a better bet. Not just because of the trust of an established business, but because the business can afford to spend more time with you on your purchase.
Are you inexperienced with inspections, and want more time to check things out? Do you want to perform a test drive and really get into the different performance issues in a specific vehicle? A car dealership is more likely to let you try the vehicle out, mostly because they have more tools to protect themselves in the rare event you do something wrong.
Contact a used cars dealer to discuss your driving needs, and to get info on what you're allowed to do as your check the car out.