Author Topic: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?  (Read 2587 times)

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
When buying a used car from a private seller, how can you make sure the car does NOT have some serious "hidden damage" that will end up costing thousands to fix? not everyone is a mechanic, so just  by looking under the hood, I will have NO idea if the engine, transmission, whatever is good or bad.
so , how can I know if the transmission is good or needs to be replaced?  how can I know all the  major parts are still good?

I'm talking about any used car from the years 2012-now.

EDITED to add: while looking at the KBB.com results, how  much over the price value is acceptable to pay for a used car?
what if they are asking $9,000 , and the KBB.com suggests it is only worth $7,700?

Do I walk away and find another seller?
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 01:21:04 AM by kamas »

Indexer

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1338
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2018, 05:18:40 PM »
You can't so trust someone who can.

Anytime you buy a used car it should be an expectation that you are going to have a mechanic look at it. If the seller has a problem with that don't buy the car.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1302
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2018, 05:23:35 PM »
You can't so trust someone who can.

Anytime you buy a used car it should be an expectation that you are going to have a mechanic look at it. If the seller has a problem with that don't buy the car.

And make sure you pick the mechanic rather than the seller. Don't want the seller directing you to their mechanic friend.

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2018, 05:58:20 PM »
what about if the car is on one of those "used car lots"? I don't really trust them. should i trust them just because they are "in the used car business"? i don't feel they are all trustworthy. so that means I will have to have the car towed to MY mechanic first for inspection? all of those cars on those lots are not street legal - no license plaltes.



kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2018, 05:59:57 PM »
while we are on the topic, are there any sellers I can find that ARE trustworthy? like are there used car dealerships that are trustworthy, that I can trust and NOT have to inspect the car?

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10051
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2018, 06:06:06 PM »
what about if the car is on one of those "used car lots"? I don't really trust them. should i trust them just because they are "in the used car business"? i don't feel they are all trustworthy. so that means I will have to have the car towed to MY mechanic first for inspection? all of those cars on those lots are not street legal - no license plaltes.

The answer is the same - if you are not mechanically inclined then as a condition of purchasing a used car you take it to YOUR mechanic and have them look it over. 

Itís common practice.  If the seller or used-car dealer balks, walk away. Make an appointment with your mechanic first so it can be done quickly.

IN addition, always run a VIN check - its free to do and will tell you if thereís been any recorded accidents, if the title has been totaled, etc.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1302
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2018, 06:16:47 PM »
while we are on the topic, are there any sellers I can find that ARE trustworthy? like are there used car dealerships that are trustworthy, that I can trust and NOT have to inspect the car?

You can buy certified pre-owned from dealerships, but this increases the cost. Typically looking at low mileage vehicles a few years old and you're effectively paying for the warranty. There is nothing trustworthy about this...trust is only as good as the warranty, what it covers and for how long. 

cchrissyy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 718
  • Location: SF Bay Area
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2018, 08:48:25 PM »
take it to a mechanic - somebody independent of the seller.  If you don't already have one you trust, use yelp or whatever your local review site is.

still, my worst ever used car expensive experience came after doing this.  Just because you buy a car form an ok-seeming seller, with low miles and full records, and with your mechanic's approval, doesn't mean it won't come apart 6 months later. it turns out, cars can have certain issues at certain times and sometimes you can see them coming but some issues there is no way to predict them, that's just the risk of owning a big machine.

Tass

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1392
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Southern California
  • Working on a PhD...
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2018, 09:43:56 PM »
what about if the car is on one of those "used car lots"? I don't really trust them. should i trust them just because they are "in the used car business"? i don't feel they are all trustworthy. so that means I will have to have the car towed to MY mechanic first for inspection? all of those cars on those lots are not street legal - no license plaltes.

Nope, even if they have an on-site mechanic you should pay your own. Their mechanic works for them; you want a mechanic working for you. They should have some arrangement to let you test-drive the car anyway (re: license plate concern); but you should be able to make an appointment with the mechanic and then test-drive the car over there. Might take an hour.

If the lot won't let you take it to a mechanic, or won't let you test drive it, leave and find a new lot.

You can look for a couple things before you take it to the mechanic though, and avoid dropping $50-100 to have an inspection on something obviously bad. Look under the hood for any oily/greasy residue (dirt is fine). Check the wheels and tires (BOTH). Do a walkaround for body damage. Drive it on the highway, and find an empty street to hit the brakes hard.

Look up the car on kbb.com to know what price you should be negotiating and on carcomplaints.com to check whether that particular model sucks.

Also, do not perform your test drive with the emergency brake on. Learn from my mistakes.

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2018, 10:34:12 PM »
still, my worst ever used car expensive experience came after doing this.  Just because you buy a car form an ok-seeming seller, with low miles and full records, and with your mechanic's approval, doesn't mean it won't come apart 6 months later. it turns out, cars can have certain issues at certain times and sometimes you can see them coming but some issues there is no way to predict them, that's just the risk of owning a big machine.

do you mean you followed all these precautions, then 6 months later your car fell apart to trash? were there lots of hidden defects in the car that even your mechanic had no way of knowing?

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2848
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2018, 12:30:53 AM »
Was wondering about the logistics around involving a mechanic for private sales... it makes sense that the seller would meet you at your mechanics *if* your mechanic is nearby. Otherwise, what do most of you end up doing (aside from having a friend who is a mechanic and will go with you or meet you there)? Do you just Yelp for a "good" mechanic in the locale where you found a car your interested in and take it there? Something else?

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2018, 01:18:30 AM »

Look up the car on kbb.com to know what price you should be negotiating and on carcomplaints.com to check whether that particular model sucks.


so, what if they are asking $9,000 , and the KBB.com suggests it is only worth $7,700?

Do I walk away and find another seller? How much of a price difference over the KBB.com value is acceptable?

gooki

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2362
  • Location: NZ
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2018, 05:38:26 AM »
Zero dollars. Show them the blue book value and tell them this is what you are happy to pay.

If they decline your offer, thank them for their time, and tell them to call you if they change their mind.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10051
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2018, 05:47:32 AM »

Look up the car on kbb.com to know what price you should be negotiating and on carcomplaints.com to check whether that particular model sucks.


so, what if they are asking $9,000 , and the KBB.com suggests it is only worth $7,700?

Do I walk away and find another seller? How much of a price difference over the KBB.com value is acceptable?

KBB is a good starting place to give you a ballpark estimate.  THey use data from recent, similar car sales in your region to determine prices, but the real value is what someone will pay.
I always use KBB and then search craigslist and autotrader within ~200 mi of my home to see what similar cars are priced at (ideally same make/model... but get as close as you can).  I print a few out to show Iíve done the homework.
If itís within 5% I donít quibble much.  If they want more I show them the other adds and say ďhey, iíve Got x# of vehicles listed here worth less.Ē With private sellers this can all be done over the phone or email or text... with used-car sales they already know all this information (they watch all used car sales) and usually will make a weak-ass argument about how my time is money or this other car might not have some option, but if Iím about to walk they almost always cave... an ok sale is better than none since they deal in volume.

Was wondering about the logistics around involving a mechanic for private sales... it makes sense that the seller would meet you at your mechanics *if* your mechanic is nearby. Otherwise, what do most of you end up doing (aside from having a friend who is a mechanic and will go with you or meet you there)? Do you just Yelp for a "good" mechanic in the locale where you found a car your interested in and take it there? Something else?
When my brother bought his Jeep (stupid impractical car, but whatever) some 6 hours away we used the Mechanic Files (from Car Talk) to find an independent mechanic with good reviews.  Yelp works well too.  The seller was willing to meet us there with the vehicle so we confirmed the price as the mechanic was doing the look over (and he let us all walk under the car as it was on the lift and pointed out everything he was inspecting).
Iíll stress this is incredible common - if anyone balks its likely because there is something inherently wrong with the vehicle they donít want you to fix.

Jaayse

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 226
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Somewhere on the Ocean
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2018, 06:00:19 AM »
I found this the other day and it seems pretty comprehensive.  It is a series of youtube videos that helps you inspect a used car that will at least educate you a bit more on the process.  I found them very helpful and even though I'm not looking for a used car right now I watched the whole series.  I'm not saying that professional opinions should not be sought, but I think this is a good watch for anyone out looking at used cars, especially if you're buying directly from an owner and you don't have a mechanic that you know and trust.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC8LbvYk6es&list=PLvKbarVtwhUv6bjLhJSyaEOxaYy03j7QS

Linea_Norway

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4870
  • Location: Norway
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2018, 06:09:41 AM »
When I had to buy a used car by myself, my DH instructed me to do the following:

Require a test drive and do the following:
- Open the window while driving and listen for noises that shouldn't be there.
- On a straight stretch of road, take your hands of the wheel and see that the car still drives straight.
- Brake hard and see that it brakes as you expect.
Ask the car to be put on a car lift. Look under the car to see if some of the important bearing parts are rusty. When I bought the car from a private car repair person, he let me drive to a garage where the car was put onto a car lift. You need a flashlight to look under.

I have learned to ask about the keys. Are there enough car keys? I received only one and had to buy a second myself. That is quite expensive.

You want to see the car's service book.

cchrissyy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 718
  • Location: SF Bay Area
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2018, 11:16:15 AM »
Quote
Quote from: cchrissyy on January 14, 2018, 08:48:25 PM
still, my worst ever used car expensive experience came after doing this.  Just because you buy a car form an ok-seeming seller, with low miles and full records, and with your mechanic's approval, doesn't mean it won't come apart 6 months later. it turns out, cars can have certain issues at certain times and sometimes you can see them coming but some issues there is no way to predict them, that's just the risk of owning a big machine.

do you mean you followed all these precautions, then 6 months later your car fell apart to trash? were there lots of hidden defects in the car that even your mechanic had no way of knowing?

yes that's exactly what I mean. it developed transmission trouble so severe that it required total replacement. (I sold the car in broken condition, rather than accept the very high $ to fix)

As part of my decision to repair versus sell the car, I took it to 2 mechanics shops to diagnose and quote the job, neither of which was the place that did my pre-purchase checkup, and both places assured me there was no way to know 6 months in advance that this could have happened, and no reason to blame my previous mechanic or the previous owner. they said sometimes, rarely, this stuff just happens.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10051
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2018, 12:10:54 PM »
...
As part of my decision to repair versus sell the car, I took it to 2 mechanics shops to diagnose and quote the job, neither of which was the place that did my pre-purchase checkup, and both places assured me there was no way to know 6 months in advance that this could have happened, and no reason to blame my previous mechanic or the previous owner. they said sometimes, rarely, this stuff just happens.

People love to throw horror stories around and blame bad car karma on buying used. IMO sometimes stuff just happens. It's pretty rare/hard to hide a flaw that a mechanic can't pick up by putting it on a lift and plugging in the On-Board diagnostic tool (that little computer which records every bad electrical thing that happens). To paraphrase my mechanic - generally hiding a flaw takes about as much effort and time as fixing the damn problem, so literally almost no one bothers. 

You can buy a brand new car and have it happen 5 miles and 5 days after the warranty expires.  Such is life.

Samuel

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 254
  • Location: the slippery slope
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2018, 12:25:00 PM »
Zero dollars. Show them the blue book value and tell them this is what you are happy to pay.

If they decline your offer, thank them for their time, and tell them to call you if they change their mind.

It's not always that simple, though, especially at the cheaper end of the spectrum.

In my area an older Honda in decent shape never sells for the blue book value. I had a 1994 Accord that the blue book listed at $2400 (or so). I sold it in 2 days for $3200 after getting 5-6 responses. Sensible cars are valued here (which sucks for mustachians).

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2018, 04:38:12 PM »
I have a mechanic friend, usually I take cars to his shop. How can I take a prospective car from the used car lot, to the  mechanics shop for pre-inspection before purchase? They will not let me take their car off the lot until I buy it.
Am I supposed to take my mechanic to the car lot? How much does it cost for having to bring MY mechanic to the car lot for inspection?

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1302
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2018, 05:30:13 PM »
I have a mechanic friend, usually I take cars to his shop. How can I take a prospective car from the used car lot, to the  mechanics shop for pre-inspection before purchase? They will not let me take their car off the lot until I buy it.
Am I supposed to take my mechanic to the car lot? How much does it cost for having to bring MY mechanic to the car lot for inspection?

Huge red flag. Do not buy. Go somewhere else.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10051
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2018, 07:30:27 PM »
I have a mechanic friend, usually I take cars to his shop. How can I take a prospective car from the used car lot, to the  mechanics shop for pre-inspection before purchase? They will not let me take their car off the lot until I buy it.
Am I supposed to take my mechanic to the car lot? How much does it cost for having to bring MY mechanic to the car lot for inspection?

Huge red flag. Do not buy. Go somewhere else.
Absolutely agree.  If they won't let you take it to an independent mechanic (who's shop is a reasonable distance away)... walk away.  These people are not trustworthy.

HipGnosis

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1575
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #22 on: January 17, 2018, 11:02:40 AM »
When I had to buy a used car by myself, my DH instructed me to do the following:

Require a test drive and do the following:
- Open the window while driving and listen for noises that shouldn't be there.
- On a straight stretch of road, take your hands of the wheel and see that the car still drives straight.
- Brake hard and see that it brakes as you expect.
Ask the car to be put on a car lift. Look under the car to see if some of the important bearing parts are rusty. When I bought the car from a private car repair person, he let me drive to a garage where the car was put onto a car lift. You need a flashlight to look under.

I have learned to ask about the keys. Are there enough car keys? I received only one and had to buy a second myself. That is quite expensive.

You want to see the car's service book.
I will add:  go to a quiet road or parking lot.  Open your door and turn the radio off.  Shift thru the gears slowly - there shouldn't be any clunks or grinding...

I learned the hard way about keys.  The keys with the buttons for locking-unlocking are 'coded' to the car (so only your keys will work for your car).  Only a dealer can code a new key.  And they charge a premium.  My last car came with only one key.  I could buy a key online, but the price to code it was so high that I never got a 2nd key (I put a BIG piece of bright yarn on the keychain so I'd never misplace it).

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3057
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #23 on: January 17, 2018, 11:08:45 AM »
Non-dealer mechanics can program fancy keys for a lot cheaper. I got a second fob for my Ford at a mechanic - but it didn't come with the metal backup key.

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #24 on: January 17, 2018, 01:26:22 PM »
CARFAX report here:
https://www.carfax.com/VehicleHistory/e/Report.cfx?5uBv4IjzH_LMcOg01zd9ktFSN5G_gLXmfkA1uhLzNbQ&partner=SHR_3

How do you know if there is a lien on the car? the Carfax says a lien was reported. does that mean the lien is still there? what exactly does that mean for ME if I buy this car? how do I know there is no longer a lien on the car? will the Carfax say no more lien? another thing, this car has had 4 owners in 6 years. is that a red flag? should I even bother having it inspected? otherwise, it seems like a good car and a fair price.

2012 Toyota Corolla LE - $8,887
https://www.cargurus.com/Cars/inventorylisting/viewDetailsFilterViewInventoryListing.action?sourceContext=carGurusHomePage_false_0&newSearchFromOverviewPage=true&inventorySearchWidgetType=AUTO&entitySelectingHelper.selectedEntity=c23202&entitySelectingHelper.selectedEntity2=c25199&zip=22311&distance=10&searchChanged=true&maxPrice=10000&modelChanged=true&filtersModified=true&sortType=PRICE&sortDirection=ASC#listing=192926635

EDITED TO UPDATE: I just spoke with my mechanic, he said be careful, these corollas burn lots of oil and that 4 owners in 6 years sounds fishy. maybe i'll try looking at another car instead?
« Last Edit: January 17, 2018, 01:33:45 PM by kamas »

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
« Last Edit: January 17, 2018, 02:02:57 PM by kamas »

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1302
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #26 on: January 17, 2018, 05:43:19 PM »
CARFAX report here:
https://www.carfax.com/VehicleHistory/e/Report.cfx?5uBv4IjzH_LMcOg01zd9ktFSN5G_gLXmfkA1uhLzNbQ&partner=SHR_3

How do you know if there is a lien on the car? the Carfax says a lien was reported. does that mean the lien is still there? what exactly does that mean for ME if I buy this car? how do I know there is no longer a lien on the car? will the Carfax say no more lien? another thing, this car has had 4 owners in 6 years. is that a red flag? should I even bother having it inspected? otherwise, it seems like a good car and a fair price.

2012 Toyota Corolla LE - $8,887
https://www.cargurus.com/Cars/inventorylisting/viewDetailsFilterViewInventoryListing.action?sourceContext=carGurusHomePage_false_0&newSearchFromOverviewPage=true&inventorySearchWidgetType=AUTO&entitySelectingHelper.selectedEntity=c23202&entitySelectingHelper.selectedEntity2=c25199&zip=22311&distance=10&searchChanged=true&maxPrice=10000&modelChanged=true&filtersModified=true&sortType=PRICE&sortDirection=ASC#listing=192926635

EDITED TO UPDATE: I just spoke with my mechanic, he said be careful, these corollas burn lots of oil and that 4 owners in 6 years sounds fishy. maybe i'll try looking at another car instead?

Ya think? I don't understand why you're still looking at this vehicle, or dealing with this particular dealer. Not being able to take it to the mechanic of your choice is a deal breaker. The CARFAX report shows a couple of instances of "drivability" and suspension checks. Could be nothing, but could also be something badly wrong with the vehicle.

vodsonic

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 16
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #27 on: January 18, 2018, 03:36:32 AM »
I heartily agree with all the previous responses regarding refusing to deal with a used car lot that won't let you take the vehicle to an independent mechanic.

What I'm about to suggest is no substitute for taking the used car to a mechanic for a professional opinion, but it may help you weed through quite a few lemons before going to the trouble of getting the car to a mechanic. You can get a small bluetooth-or wifi- enabled OBD scanner plug (works like the expensive scanners mechanics plug in under the dash), and read the car's trouble codes with a free app on your smartphone.

If you have enough technical ability to link a bluetooth headset to your phone or set up a basic wifi router, you can use one of these OBD scanners. Some of the apps display an error code number rather than a detailed explanation of what problem is indicated, but an online search can provide a lot of information about what the error codes mean.

For US$20 or so, these can reveal some things that a seller might be hiding or of which they might simply be unaware. Search for "OBDII scanner" on Amazon or the like. Last time I checked, the bluetooth ones work with Android devices but not the iPhone - for the latter you need an OBDII scanner that creates its own little wifi network to connect to the iPhone app.

Regarding key fob remotes, I'm sure some newer ones have been designed to give the dealerships a monopoly on replacement and reprogramming, but for my mid-00s Sienna, I was able to buy a new-in-the-box fob off eBay and locate some articles online that enabled me to link it to my vehicle myself.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 03:38:09 AM by vodsonic »

kamas

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 102
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #28 on: January 18, 2018, 02:02:43 PM »
Thanks all. I'm not working with that dealer anymore.
Im leaning more towards a 2012-213 HONDA FIT.
What about a Toyota prius? What year is decent for a toyota prius? Is 2012 too old for a Prius?

https://www.koonsoutlet.com/used/Toyota/2010-Toyota-Prius-d8bc73950a0e0ae737519f11fdd9e830.htm?mycarsr=vdp-recentCars

2010 Toyota Prius III Hatchback
Mileage : 93,759 miles
Price $8735

JAYSLOL

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1132
Re: how to verify a used car is NOT trash?-and get accurate Price value?
« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2018, 06:09:15 PM »
Get a car looked at by your mechanic as others have stated.  I'm fairly handy with cars and even I will pay to have a real mechanic look at a car if I'm thinking of spending serious money on it ($5k+).  Also, a good line to use when the seller isn't coming down in price is to say (in your best "I don't give a s**t voice") "Its just a car, you've got a deal at $*insert.your.price, you want to sell it?