Buying a car is no easy task. In fact, it can be a rather tedious process if you do it right. When looking at a car that you're interested in, there is nothing wrong with approaching it with a certain degree of skepticism. So I have a quick three tips that you should always keep in you mind when inspecting a car for purchase:
1) Look for a maintenance log: Any car owner that has keep a running record of all repairs and maintenance procedures on their vehicle has obviously been concerned with the general well-being of their car. Even if the maintenance log isn't eloquently written with charts and diagrams, you can still see that the car has been maintained. If someone has taken the time to compile a log, then they have likely paid attention to other important elements of the car as well.
2) Take a look under the hood: I've seen tons of articles out there that recommend having a mechanic inspect a car before you buy it. Although this is obviously a great thing to do, the fact of the matter is that there aren't too many people that do that. What you can do instead is spend a few minutes looking at the components under the hood. Look to see if all of the fluids are at their proper levels. If any particular fluid is alarmingly low, be sure to ask the owner about it. If this surprises the owner, then it shows that they haven't taken too much care of the car. Check the oil too. If it is death-black and has filth in it, that's a major red flag! That's a sign of serious neglect. Other things that are worth a glance include belts, any moveable components and even the battery. Look to see if there is any fraying on the belts and that all moveable components are secure. Also be sure to check for corrosion on the battery terminals. If the battery terminals are badly corroded, you're looking at spending an additional $100 at least for a replacement battery.
3) Check for a clean interior: If the inside of a car is trashed when you go to look at it, I would just keep on moving. The inside of a car is the easiest thing to maintain and considering the fact that a person is showing you their car for sale, it should be above average clean. If there is garbage everywhere on the inside, then this person has likely not cared for the parts of the car that you can't see!
Well there you have it. By keeping these three easy tips in mind, you can greatly increase your chances of not inheriting a disaster. I've bought cars before that have thrown me surprises right after buying them and it is not fun. So take some time, do a little research and buy a well kept car that won't require any surprise additional expenses after you buy it!