Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Bel Air, MD
Wife drives 2003 Elantra
Work vehicle 1999 Cherokee
Play truck 1994 F 250 Diesel
Play car 1982 Me
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One of the problems with cars off the dealer's lot, is that they have been "sanitized" and any evidence of problems, removed. I would feel much more confident in the same car if I were buying it from the original owner, AND he/she had complete service records indicating regular service.
What about the timing belt? These are interference engines, and if the belt breaks, the engine is toast. Can they show when it was last replaced? Maybe they would replace it for you now.
How does the transmission oil look? Probably they replaced it, so it should look good, but if it is dark and smells burnt, be warned.
Would they object if you said you wanted to take it to a mechanic of your choice for a PPI ( Pre Purchase Inspection)? If they object--run!!!! If not pay someone a hour for a thorough inspection. At the least it buys you some peace of mind, at the worst it helps you avoid a disaster.
Expect to put some money into ANY used car in the first year you own it. It is likely the previous owner delayed maintenance since they knew they were selling/trading. Coming off a dealer's lot, all 4 tires should be new and match, no evidence of leaking at shocks or struts--so those items should be OK. Give it a thorough test drive--listen for rattles and other odd noises.
As a bench mark, my 2003 Elantra with almost 100,000 miles is still tight and solid. I had a chance for a "spirited" driving on some back roads, yesterday, and it brought a smile to my face. It still feels too good to trade in.
One more point to illustrate---For the last 2 years at work, the company vehicle was a 1999 Jeep Cherokee with 200,000 plus miles. I drove it happily--as it cost me nothing. I did a little maintenance on it--shocks and sway bar bushings and oil changes, and was happy with it. Then, about 4 months ago, it developed several unrelated issues at the same time. The company scraped it and gave me another Jeep Cherokee from the fleet--a 2001. It was a totally different experience--this one felt NEW, tight and solid. I did not realize how "used up" the old one felt until I drive the newer one. It did have less than 1 third the miles, and they made a difference. The point is drive several comparable vehicles to make sure you know how it should feel.