Car Tips

On this page I have plans to give advice and tips (along with a few rants), on various automotive related subjects such as:

Purchasing used or new cars, trucks, motorcycles, or whatever.

Fuels and their differences, for example ethanol and it’s problems with storage or shelf life.

How to get good fuel mileage.

I will get to these topics and many more as soon as possible.

Purchasing used cars/trucks.

This is one of the most often asked about and frustrating areas for a lot of people. Basically it is often a huge gamble that can risk a large amount of money. Here are some of my observations of the process with some do’s and don’ts.

We will start with the big ugly fact that most used cars have not been maintained very well! The second big ugly fact is that you have to find the ones that have been maintained well, or your money will be wasted. The third fact is you can’t be in a rush, as this will cost you. You have to invest time and effort if you want a good used car.

My number one rule is to buy from the original owner, so decide what kind of car you want, check out all of them in your area, and eliminate the ones that aren’t original owner (Smaller list now). Now see if the car was garaged or not. This is a big plus if it was. Where and how it was maintained is critical. Dealer only with collaborating records, not bad. Independent shop with records, maybe better. Fast lubes with  multiple repair shop records for breakdowns, not good. The repair and maintenance records should show regular oil changes (a few) per year, coolant every few years, belts hoses, spark plugs, fuel filters etc., and the owner should have shown an interest in keeping these records. It is best if they are all at one shop, and show steady patronage.

The vehicle should be clean inside and out, and it should be obvious that the owner liked or loved it. Ask them their reason for selling it. Did they buy a new one, and didn’t want to trade this one in? Maybe they needed a different format, bigger, smaller etc. You don’t want to hear “it was costing to much to keep up” or, ” I just don’t like it”. Another thing to keep in mind when visiting a car for sale is the home where it lives. If you can go there is the place neat and tidy? Is the car in a garage? Is their new car in the garage? If their house and yard are trashed, they probably trashed the car on some level. Sad but true.

Next get all of the info you can on the car like the V.I.N. (vehicle identification number), model, options like power windows, CD players, aluminum wheels etc. Plug all that you can into Kelly Blue book on line, You can then find the value of that car in your zip code area, and then check good condition (rare), or fair condition (most), and compare that value to what the person is asking. Make sure you are checking private party values. Wholesale is what the dealer pays and retail is what the dealer charges. I don’t recommend dealers for many reasons, this being one of them, one of the others is you will never get to see any maintenance records. While you are on line you should check with a site like that can check the V.I.N. This will show a record of every time the registration location moved (you don’t want a car that lived where the roads are salted like back east), or the owner changed, or sometimes insurance claims for larger accidents. This check confirms the original owner claim.

After all of this, if at all possible have the vehicle checked out by a good mechanic to uncover what problems are lurking, or just to confirm it is a good buy. Remember you always put money into a used car no matter what, as none are perfect, but a clean well kept car is usually a good foundation, well worth putting some money into, especially if it is a car you really like and want. Fixing up a well worn but not ruined older car can be a very good alternative to spending a fortune on a new car.

This is all a lot of work and time, but the way cars of today hold their value, buying an abused one can waste a large amount of money. You must decide, do you have time, or do you have money?


Don’t compare apples with oranges!

But wait! There’s more!

These words always seem to follow an unbelievable deal on something or another that you just can’t live without because it is so cheap and such a “deal”, while every body else selling anything like it is “over priced”. Then when it can’t get any better comes the…”but wait there’s more”, and the deal goes on and on. Then if some one actually orders this “bargain” they find the truth to be that the product is crap, the “shipping and handling” is higher than the product price, and that it applies separately to each of the “more” items of the deal that you had to “wait” for. Basically a rip-off scam that is legal.

What made me get off on this tangent was a call today from a young man who just had his car repaired by another young man who professed to being a mechanic. He claimed he could repair some very complex systems on this car. Apparently upon opening his hood later after said repairs, the first young man found missing bolts and broken parts to a large extent, and was very upset. He later found, by jacking the car up, that work performed on a wheel bearing was not done correctly and the whole wheel moves quite a bit. He wants me to repair all of this and I had to inform him that it may well cost more than if I had done it the first time, depending on what else may be damaged that will turn up during disassembly. He wants it correct. He wants his car safe. He carries people he cares about in it. The other young man had told him that he and a friend were opening a shop soon and that they were giving him a deal. Save your money, buy it from us, we know what we are doing. We are a deal! But wait there is more! More expense, more time without a car, more chance he could have been hurt or hurt some one else driving a defective car. He got more all right, and he is not happy with his choice or “the deal” he got with it.

Just like the ad on TV, it is not illegal, just wrong. If something is cheaper, you better find out why. Don’t compare apples with oranges. At least try to confirm that a “mechanic” really is one. The state of Washington isn’t going to do it for you, and a lot of young men know this. It is easy money for them, and a hard lesson for the consumer. Be ware!

(The above is from a blog entry in January 2012, but falls into the rant category I mentioned at the top of the page, so I included it here.)