Your eyes are your most important asset when it comes to inspecting vehicles at buy here pay here dealerships. Try to do the inspection while the vehicles are still off and the engines are cold to the touch. Remember that while all used cars would have some wear-and-tear, some only affect the feel of the vehicles while others mean that costly repairs would be a sure thing. By inspecting the vehicles, you are aiming to avoid costly repairs later on. However, if you still like the vehicles, use the faults discovered as bargaining chips to lower the prices of the vehicles.
Tip #1: Look for signs that the vehicle was in a flood and now is rotting by smelling it!
Tip #2: Make sure that the hood opens normally without squeaking as that can be a sign of previous accident that might have damaged the engine and the surrounding parts.
Tip #3: Look for pride of ownership by simply looking to see if hood prop is missing.
Tip #4: Leaves stuck in the hinges and around the hood cover might indicate that the vehicle was sitting around for a long time which is bad.
Tip #5: Look for fluid leaks around the outside of the mechanical parts.
Tip #6: Check if the drive belts are worn out.
Tip #7: Look for battery corrosion and if the age is indicated on the battery itself as it usually lasts 4-5 yrs and then needs replacement.
Tip #8: Look for chewed up tubing.
Tip #9: Give it a spin to the cooling fan to see if it spins freely.
Tip #10: Look for damage of seals on radiator cap when cold to see if the vehicle has been over heating. If it is running out of radiator oil, this is a red flag.
Tip #11: Check the windshield wiper reservoir for leakage.
Tip #12: Check fuel filter for aging and cleanliness.
Tip #13: Check fluids:
Coolant – Look for color, cleanliness, and amount.
Oil – Take out the dip-stick, wipe it to remove possible corrosion of the metal itself, then dip it back in and out to see the level of oil present and the color of the oil. Darker oil would indicate that the oil was not changed for a while and is harmful to the vehicle.
Brake fluid reservoir – Fluid should be changed periodically and if low, it could mean worn out front brake pads or worn out actual brakes.
Power steering fluid – Check the amount using the hot and cold lines.
Transmission fluid – Some dip-sticks have hot and cold marking lines, but it is the only one here that is recommended to be checked while hot (after a test drive where vehicle is on and hot – except with Honda where the engine should be hot but the car should be off). It should be pink and up to the required mark. It is bad if it is yellow with bubbles and have low mark.