Posts Tagged ‘used car’


How Old is Not “Too Old?”

Dear Ken, found a great used car on the site, but it’s almost 10yrs old. Is there anything extra I should worry about when buying such an older model used car?

- Keith G., CA

Keith, I’m glad CarsForAGrand has helped you out. Now I wouldn’t recommend buying a used car older than ten to twelve years. Oftentimes, no matter how many new parts you put into it, it will be still an old car that will need more and more repair in the long run.

The perfect used car will be anything between 4-6 years old because the price is greatly reduced and you’ll still have a few trouble-free years left in its life.

Hope that helps.

- Ken the Car Guy


A/C in Used ’04 Toyota 4 Runner Not Working

Hey Ken, I have a used ’04 Toyota 4 Runner with about 40,000 miles on it and the A/C stopped working a few weeks ago. After taking a look at it I noted some bubbles in the sight glass which led me to believe that the system was low on freon. So I added some freon to the point that the bubbles cleared and I noted the aluminum low pressure line from the firewall was noticeably colder and sweating however the outlet air vents in the dash were only, at best , producing cool air but far from adequate cold air. I also noted that the heater hoses both supply and return from the firewall are quite hot however I don’t know if this is normal or if for some reason the heater is also operating at the same time as the A/C. I can’t locate a in line valve for the heater to verify if it is open or closed and at this point I am baffled!  Any help or advise will be appreciated.

- Bill G., VT

Dear Bill, the heater core has coolant going through it all the time, this is normal. The cold air/hot air is directed internally with air blend doors, it may be a problem with the controls on the dash, it uses a pushbutton array for the controls which controls the air blend doors and the air flow through servos, don’t have a quick answer, if it’s auto A/C it will have a self diagnostic system which can be accessed at a Toyota dealer using their diagnostic tool.

Hope this helps.

- Ken the Car Guy


What Mileage is OK for a Used Car?

Dear Ken, found a great used car, but have questions about the mileage. What mileage is too high for a used car? Is there a range I should be aware of?

- Steve R., NY

Dear Steve, in general, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a car with a very high mileage. I would consider anything over 155,000 miles to be very high. However, “low mileage” does not necessarily mean it’s going to be a “good car.” Be aware of cars that may have undergone restoration after a serious accident, cars that haven’t been property maintained, or cars that may have had their odometer rolled back. Again, checking a car history records will certainly help to avoid those lemons with “fixed” odometer.

When considering the ‘mileage’ count, it simply means that when choosing a car whether it has 60,000 or 80,000, it is not as important as the fact that it was well maintained and accident-free.

Hope that helps.

- Ken the Car Guy


What’s the Right Used Car for Me?

Dear Ken, love the site. I’m short on funds and Cars for a Grand has definitely been a lifesaver in the car buying game. My only question is what it advice do you have when it comes to picking out the right used car?

- Stanley U., MA

Well Stanley, the first step is deciding what kind of car you want. Do you need simple transportation to drive to work and back? If so, a small Sedan would be best. Do you want a car to be very economical? If so, you would want to select a car with a small engine. Don’t expect to find a V6 or V8 engine or 4WD truck if you are looking for something really affordable. Are icy roads common in your area? If this is the case, then you need a car with anti-lock brakes. If you want to use your car to tow a trailer, then you will have to consider a car with more powerful engine.

Once you’ve decided on what type of car is best suited for you or your family members, and you know what you want, see what models are available and what you can afford. Luckily they’re all less than a grand here! Then compare the reliability rating and read more reviews. Also, don’t forget to check insurance rates on the car you want before you buy.

- Ken the Car Guy


Inspecting a Used Car

Dear Ken, what kind of stuff do you recommend I take a look at before I test drive a used car?

- Robert G., CA


Robert, before you test drive a car it’s important you take a look at it to verify what condition it’s in and that that seller is actually telling the truth.

Here’s what to look for:

1. Signs of Rust

Always inspect used cars in daylight because “Rust bubbles,” which progress to full-scale rust spots and holes, are difficult to see at night.

Rust remains one of a used car’s greatest enemies, and is generally more damaging to a car’s appearance and value than to its ability to get you where you need to go. Plus, it’s expensive to repair well and nearly impossible to reverse.

2. Work from the Bottom Up

Start by looking underneath the car. Use a flashlight to inspect the floor pans (the metal that forms the floors) and frame rails (the structural members that run around the perimeter of the car’s underbelly). Look for rust. Also look for marked differences in the condition of different sections. One pristine or freshly painted section in an otherwise moderately rusty car is a reliable indication that part of the vehicle was repaired. Did the seller disclose any accidents in the car’s history?

While you’re down there, look up into the wheel wells for rust. Take note if the car seems to be dripping anything (check out the driveway and/or the garage floor if you can) and look for rust and signs of wear on the muffler and exhaust pipes.

3. Do a Walkaround

Look around the car for signs of rust, dents and dings. Check how well the hood, doors and trunk/hatch lid close. Do they seal well? Try all the doors and their windows and locks.

Some of these tests may seem unnecessary, but every little problem could become your problem, and every shortcoming can be used to drive the price down.

4. Check Out the Trunk

Lift the carpet and check for signs of rust. Will it hold enough to meet your needs? Is the spare tire in its proper location, full of air and in good condition? Pay attention to how simple or difficult it is to lift the trunk or hatch lid. Does it stay up or fall on your head? Will you be likely to hit your head on it even if it stays up?

5. The Engine Compartment

You don’t have to be a mechanic to learn something about a car — and its owner — by inspecting the engine compartment. Pop the hood and perform these checks:

  • Take a good look at the overall condition. Is the engine clean, or are there signs of leaking oil or other fluids? Take a mental picture, because you’ll want to look again after you drive it.
  • Check for rust, particularly on the shock or strut towers, the points at the corners near the windshield to which the front suspension is anchored.
  • Do you see any sign of fresh paint (or paint that is clearly newer than elsewhere on the car)? Have any of the rubber bumpers been painted over? These can be signs of an accident or simply a re-paint job.
  • With the engine turned off, check the underside of the fan belts (the surface that comes in contact with the pulleys) for cracks and obvious wear.
  • Pull the oil dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag, and reinsert and remove it. Is the level correct? Is the oil dark and dirty? Both are signs that the car isn’t getting the care it deserves. You can also look for beads of water on the oil clinging to the dipstick, which could reflect a costly head gasket problem.
  • If the engine hasn’t run for hours and the radiator is cool to the touch, remove the radiator cap carefully and slowly using a rag (the car’s coolant system is pressurized and can spray, causing injury; open it only if you know it’s cool). Is there a layer of oily film floating on the top? Is the coolant clean and green or rust-colored? A layer of film is caused by oil, which reflects a costly head gasket problem. A rusty color is caused by, you guessed it, rust, which reflects that the vehicle has been neglected.

6. Start It

Go ahead and start the car. Does it start easily? Run smoothly? Don’t hesitate to test all the lights and signals, inside the car and outside. Same thing for the wipers, heat and air conditioning, and cigarette lighter.

If you do all of these things you can not only save yourself some headaches down the line, but you can also use any problems to help get the seller lower the price.

- Ken the Car Guy


“Test-Driving” the Seller

I found a used car I really want, but my friends say I need to learn more about it from the seller before I hassle with driving to see it. Any recommendations?

- Nancy J., Colorado

Nancy, you can save yourself a lot of hassle right from the get go by “test-driving” the seller, that is asking a series of questions that can shed some light on the vehicle and the person trying to sell it before leaving the house. This is an easy way to rule out cars that may have a potential problem as well as sellers that you may not want to fork over your hard-earned cash too.

  1. Why are you selling the vehicle?
    If the seller answers, “Because it’s a piece of junk!” then the interview may be over (unless junk is your thing). But the seller may say something else so odd, or say it so nervously, that you can tell he or she thinks it’s a piece of junk and are trying not to say so, or doesn’t have the good sense to make up an alternate reason ahead of time. If the person doesn’t have the sense to do that, he or she probably doesn’t have the sense to keep oil in the engine or to roll up the windows when it rained.
  2. How many miles does it have?
    A used vehicle’s mileage helps determine its value, which will be important during negotiations. You can research values in our Kelley Blue Book pricing tool before meeting the seller. Also, if you eventually see the vehicle, and the odometer reads significantly higher (or appears to be stuck on a number when you drive it), it’s time to leave.
  3. What condition is it in?
    Note that the wording of the question is neutral. See how the seller responds. You know what kind of problems you can live with and how they affect your offer. Be sure to follow up by specifically asking about both its structural and mechanical condition in case the seller didn’t address either one. Again, if you see the vehicle and find that the seller could have been more honest about its condition, take it as a sign.
  4. Does it have any special features?
    How a vehicle is equipped also affects its value. Are the seats upholstered in leather? Is there a CD player? Is it equipped with air conditioning?
  5. Are you the original owner?
    In general, single-owner vehicles are preferable. This also helps with the next few questions. If the seller isn’t the original owner, he or she might not have the answers. The more you know about the vehicle, the higher your comfort level will be.
  6. Was the vehicle ever involved in an accident?A crucial question. Vehicles that have been in collisions are prone to more problems and are worth less. If the seller says “no” to this question on the phone and then you determine that it’s been damaged and repaired, you’ll know that the seller is untrustworthy or, at best, not as familiar with the vehicle as you would hope. Whatever their reason for getting it wrong, it may be time to walk away.

As always Nancy, it pays to do your homework beforehand.

- Ken the Car Guy