Ask A Wrench — Buying A Used Car

Ask A Wrench jpgBy Ed Miner Jr.

I wanted to discuss this month some tips on buying a used car. I wanted you all to benefit from some of my experiences with those folks who went looking for one and having it show up at our shop a few weeks later.

Appearance is what usually draws people to a vehicle that is being sold….nothing wrong with that…just don’t let that be the major influence in purchasing that car.

Before you even start the car for that all important test drive look at the interior for those tell-tale signs of how it has been cared for.

Now open the hood and check all the fluids…especially the transmission fluid if it is an automatic….make sure it’s not burnt or smells funny.

Make sure and check all the windows, doors and seat belts for proper operation.

Now go ahead and start it up and notice if any warning lights stay on…service engine soon, low tire pressure, abs and most importantly the air bag light.

As of Nov. 1, 2011, the entire state has implemented new procedures for that yearly inspection one of which is that the SRS or air bag system must function.

If the SRS or air bag light is on that means it DOESN’T work and your newly purchased car will be illegal to operate. These systems are designed to last a minimum of 10 years and usually start having issues shortly afterwards. They are also EXPENSIVE to repair. Just the air bag on the steering wheel could be around 300 to 400 dollars for the part.

Most people selling a car on their own will let you take the car to be inspected by your local mechanic but if they won’t let you then they just might be hiding

something knowingly or otherwise.

We do offer a pre-purchase inspection for $29. And it might just save you some unknown costly repairs. Nothing wrong for looking on Craigslist for those “deals”…just make sure you do your own research before you even send an email or make that call to arrange a test drive….go to and get a good idea what that car is worth. I hope this helps a little and, if nothing else, give us a call and I might be able offer some sound advice. Thanks again for reading this column and supporting the Big Island Chronicle…a hui hou.

2 replies
  1. NeighborWatch
    NeighborWatch says:

    A couple other tips for those who are crazy enough to buy a car off CL from the mainland sight unseen, don’t do it.

    Also check with DMV BEFORE you hand over any cash to see if plates are up to date, stored, owed back taxes. Check to see if it will pass a safety check.

    Take it for a test drive on the highway to town! At the speeds you’ll be driving it. If they have a problem with you test driving it don’t buy it. Offer to pay something for the gas/their time it will be worth yours.

  2. Brian Jordan
    Brian Jordan says:

    I have only owned three new cars. When you are young that seems important. Then I started looking at the inside of the car. It may be anecdotal but if the inside was kept neat the owner seemed to keep the engine in good repair. My last few used cars have lasted 50 K or more without a real problem. One van was rough and it was cheap.. It was a Mopar van at 80 K having owned a few before we were prepared to replace the trans for the Transmission. The dealer wanted to repair it. I told him I expected the tranny to go. This is the reason I still buy cars from the same dealer.

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