There are many important questions to ask before considering a used car like, "Do the T-tops leak?" and "Is that the original screaming chicken on the hood?" With the help of Jalopnik readers, we've narrowed these queries down to the ten most important questions to ask when buying a used car.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: Brian Kelly
10.) Is this the original paint?
Suggested By: Jack Trade
Why it's important: Phrased another way, "Was neon green a factory color?" A re-spray is probably only the tip of a great iceberg of fixes, repairs, and all kinds of things you may not want to deal with in a used buy. Finding out about the paint is a good place to start in your used car inquisition.
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Photo Credit: England
9.) Can I check the oil?
Suggested By: Jstas
Why it's important: Oil is an earmark for trouble with a used car. You could just ask if the owner has ever skipped an oil change, but it's best not to invite the seller to lie to you. It's better to check the oil yourself, as reader Jstas lays out:
- water in the oil - shows up as white or tan foam. Pure white foam just means it's likely been sitting a while and it's condensation. Tan foam is usually from coolant and will smell like it too. That's a major problem.
- fuel in the oil - bad rings, seals, valve guides, valve seals, intake gasket, etc.
Photo Credit: Eric Schmuttenmaer
8.) Can you put this on the lift?
Suggested By: PotbellyJoe
Why it's important: This question applies to buying a car from a dealer. If you're mechanically inclined, getting a car on a lift is how you'll check for problems with the car like leaking fluids or rust. Moreover, if the dealer isn't ready to let you check out the car, you know you've got a major problem.
Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove
7.) Why are you selling it?
Suggested By: typhoon5000
Why it's important: This is a question that openly invites the seller to lie to you, and you should take it with a grain of salt when you're told a car was owned by an old lady mechanic who only drove to church on Sundays. Still, as many readers pointed out, putting the seller on the spot is a good way to recognize any deception on the part of the seller and will keep you mindful of potential problems.
Photo Credit: Brian Kelly
6.) Who was the previous owner?
Suggested By: Reptar
Why it's important: This is a good question to get some uncertainty out of the way. Things like "Yeah, but was it THE Jon Voigt?" or if you're buying a Screaming Chicken, "You mean that Joe Biden was the last owner?" If you can get a straight answer from the seller, especially if you're buying from a dealer, knowing who has owned the car can be just as informative as a full service history.
Photo Credit: The Onion
5.) Do you have the title in hand?
Suggested By: Cheeseslap
Why it's important: Don't be fooled by claims that there's a perfectly good title for the car...it's just in someone else's name and it's either wedged somewhere behind the couch or it's at my cousin's in Albuquerque. Get that pink slip and save yourself all kinds of trouble with scams or worse, the DMV.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
4.) Can I take it for a test drive?
Suggested By: Sex on Wheels
Why it's important: Test driving a used car isn't just good way to burn rubber in somebody else's Trans Am, it's how you're going to find out if the synchromesh is worn out in second gear, if the check engine light is covered up with a kid's sticker, or if the engine sounds like there's a penny bouncing around in there. Readers Mazarin and Sex on Wheels have had enough drama discovering problems on a test drive to teach you to check a car out yourself. Bonus points to all you crazy Jalops out there who buy your used junkers with blown engines or no transmission, but for the rest of us keep in mind that if the seller isn't going to let you try the car out, that's a good time to just walk away.
Photo Credit: Sean Molin
3.) Can I see the Carfax?
Suggested By: Ari Kagura
Why it's important: For the mechanically disinclined, used cars are very mysterious, so a Carfax report (or similar version) is for sure a make-or-break kind of assessment. Check the VIN and find out if that slightly misaligned hood is the last remaining evidence of a front-end collision. Carfax is by no means infallible, but it will tell you if both the airbags have been deployed in another state, if it picked up a salvage title, or whatever other hidden woes lie beneath the sheet metal.
Just be sure you've got the right VIN off the car –- a mix-and-match used car may have a couple, and if you look up the wrong one, the car may come up with the wrong color, or a straight car may come up listed as totaled.
Photo Credit: Carfax
2.) Can I see the maintenance history?
Suggested By: TheSlurpeeMan
Why it's important: Much as the seller can try and lie to you, lying through the maintenance history is a much tougher job. You won't be able to tell everything about the car's life – you'll never see record of every scuff and fender dent on the history – but there's too much to learn from a full record to pass up on getting one.
Photo Credit: kevin yezbinek
1.) Can I take this to my mechanic?
Suggested By: cjlaw73
Why it's important: Seeing a mechanic isn't just a good premise for a porno, it's an important part of buying a used car. If a used car's seller won't let you get the car looked at, walk away. Getting the car checked out by an expert on the car is how you're going to find out what's really right or wrong with the thing. Get a mechanic you can trust and have the car looked at. Unless you're doing compression tests yourself (shouts out to ∞Gîmmî∞Sagaŋ∞ðm∞Drakeŋ∞ and McMike!) you need a mechanic to look a car over.
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