There are a few things to look at before you purchase a used car. A car can look great from the outside but the engine can be old and worn out.
One of the first items to look at is the engine. The engine is the heart of the automobile. When looking at the engine, check the oil. When checking the oil, look at the level and the color. If the oil is black, that is a sign that it has not been changed. New oil will be a gold color. If you are purchasing a used car from a car lot or dealer, the oil should already be changed.
Look at places that oil can leak from. For example, look at the valve covers for oil deposits. That is one of the most common places oil will leak on a used car.
The radiator is an item to look at. Look at the color of the antifreeze. It is a good sign if the antifreeze is green. If the color is an orange or brown color, it needs to be changed. Look for green color in the fins of the radiator; that is a sign that the radiator has been leaking. Check to see if the hoses on the radiator are soft. When a radiator hose is very soft, the rubber has deteriorated and will likely burst.
The transmission fluid is vital to the life of the car. First check the level of the fluid, then look at the color. The color of transmission fluid should be a pink/red color. If the color of the fluid is a dark red, the fluid has not been replaced in a long time. Most car owners hardly ever have the transmission serviced.
Check the tires on the car, especially the front wheels. Look at the wear on the tires. If the tires are worn on the left or right sides, the alignment is out. The tires will most likely be new if the car is being purchased from a dealer.
Look under the car for body rust. A lot of General Motors vehicles rust along the lower part of the body, more than any other American car. Look under the carpet inside to see if there is a lot of rust. This can be a sign of a flood car.
When it comes time for the test drive, there are some things that need attention. The way to test the alignment while driving is to drive at 30 and 60 miles per hour. Let go of the steering wheel at 30 mph and then at 60 mph. If the car veers to the right or left or you have to hold the wheel tighter than normal, the alignment is out.
The normal rule for an oil change is 5,000 miles on a new car. It is better to change the oil every 3,000 miles on a used car.
One of the last things to do is to get a vehicle history report. The report will let a buyer know if the car was involved in a wreck, how many owners it's had, and the repairs done over the car's life.