I’ll admit that I have a real problem with those who consider knowing about cars a “manly” pursuit. So you’ll have to forgive the name of the blog (“The Art of Manliness”) over at which I found this great article. But it’s a great article indeed, outlining and even explaining a lot of concepts dear to those of us who’ve owned and self-repaired more than one heavily used vehicle. Best of all it doesn’t make blanket recommendations, but rather offers advantages and disadvantages to most of the actions involved in the whole used car purchase process.
My favorite bit, though, is the part most people skip entirely when buying a used car: the inspection. The folks over at Manliness recommend you at least look under the car for rust, check tire wear (which can uncover alignment and suspension problems), look for body damage, and avoid cars with jacked up interiors. After all, anyone who doesn’t give a damn about the part of the car they sit in for three or four years probably gives less of a damn about maintenance or avoiding curbs.
They also recommend paying attention to the controls, transmission, brakes, and alignment on the test drive, selecting at least one bumpy road to identify busted-ass shocks. Listening doesn’t hurt either.
Some other great advice: After nine years of patching my old ’88 Honda CRX together, I can identify hundreds of ailments by ear alone. So If you know someone who’s owned the same make and model you’re considering, bring ’em with you. And don’t assume that driving a lot car over to some local garage for a paid “inspection” will accomplish much. Unless you’ve been working with the mechanic for years, he (or she, of course) will likely never see the car again, and therefore has no real motivation to ferret out difficult issues.
So what do you think? If a Toolmonger buddy called you up and said “I’m buying a Trans Am. Wanna come along?” what would you look for?
(Thanks, KB35, for the great CC-licensed photo.)
[The Art of Manliness]