If you need a vehicle, you may decide to try to buy one from a private seller instead of a reputable dealer. However, if you are checking out a car from someone you do not know, you want to use caution. Before buying a used car from an unknown private seller, check the following four things to see if there are any potential problems with the vehicle.
Check For Dried Mud In The Engine
Before you take the car for a test drive, pop the hood, and look carefully at the engine. Look for signs of dried mud in the crevices and around the bolts. While regular dust on the motor is normal, dried mud could mean the vehicle was under water at some point. This is especially true if the mud has a reddish color, indicating clay or riverbed mud.
If you see dried mud on the engine, look for signs of excessive rust. If the car is fairly old, you may see some rusting. However, if the entire motor casing is showing signs of oxidation, water has been in contact with it. It is possible the water also affected the internal workings of the engine as well.
Look For Blades Of Grass Under The Hood
While you are inspecting the motor for signs of water damage, also look for broken blades of grass around the engine, transmission, and even the hood coils. If grass has grown that far up into the vehicle, it may have been sitting in a field for quite a number of years.
If the car has been sitting for a while, the rust you may have seen while looking for signs of water damage could have been caused because the car was not properly maintained and greased. The vehicle's coils, suspension, and chassis may have become brittle, causing a potential hazard if one of them break while you are driving it.
Ask How Long Since The Gas Tank Was Filled
Another potential problem of a car sitting for too long is that the fuel may have turned bad. Gas breaks down the longer it sits, creating a possible mess for the fuel system and the engine if someone tries to run the vehicle with the sour gas.
Ask the seller how long the car has been sitting and whether or not the tank was filled recently. If they cannot remember the last time gas was put in the tank, the fuel is probably bad. Try turning the engine over. If it sputters after a minute or two and the exhaust smells strange, the fuel is probably not fit to use and the lines may be clogged.
Inspect The Frame Under The Car
After looking under the hood and checking the gas, inspect the frame of the car by looking at the undercarriage. Even if the seller has told you the car was not in an accident, the frame of the vehicle can tell you the real story.
If the metal bars under the engine and along the sides of the car look as though they are uneven or are bent in any way, this indicates impact damage. More than likely, the car was involved in an accident.
Another way to look at the frame is to look at the car from the front and back while it is on even pavement. If the car looks twisted, this means that the chassis or rear end is also twisted.
Even if you do not find any evidence of the above issues with the vehicle, you may still want to be leery when buying a car from an unknown private seller. Instead of taking a chance, you may want to visit a reputable dealer who sells used cars.