Buying a used car is a risky business, especially when it’s an off-road vehicle. Off-road cars are designed to take beatings, and with this in mind, you already know your potential purchase was probably not well taken care of. Although these cars are extremely heavy-duty, there are still various things that you need to check before dropping your hard-earned money on one. It is quite normal to see some wear and tear on such vehicle. If you don’t see any, you’ll be wearing it out shortly after you buy it, but to make the best out of your purchase, there are specific things to look out for when buying an off-road car. If you are ready to buy your new adventurous off-road vehicle, then read on to ensure you get the best one for your money.
The exterior won’t be pretty, because it is an off-road vehicle, and every time it goes off the road, rocks and pebbles hit it. The idea is to see what you can and can’t live with, and if it has faults that you can’t live with, and then use it as a negotiation point to drop the price; this way you can get it fixed without having to blow your budget. Start on one corner of the vehicle, then make your way around until you reach the same corner again. Usually, scratches and small dings are quite acceptable, but broken things are a bigger deal, like a broken bumper, a broken mirror, or a broken light.
The tires are often overlooked, but they are expensive parts, and when they need replacement, you simply must replace them. Check the tires’ tread to see if they still have meat on them. Also, inspect the wear on the tires; uneven tread could mean a number of problems, from alignment issues to worn suspension parts. Don’t forget that off-road tires are slightly more expensive than regular tires, so either use this in your negotiation strategy or ask the owner to replace them before you make the deal.
The interior is also based on personal preference. Some people can’t stand tears in the seats, while others don’t care. Use your best judgment to be sure you are happy with your purchase. Expect dirty carpet and such, as this is an off-road vehicle. Things like rubber mats are a sign the previous owner respected the vehicle, because cloth mats in an off-road car are a recipe for disaster. Check all your interior lights and electronics, because these could be real issues, far bigger than cosmetic problems.
Grab your flashlight and slide under the car. While inspecting the bottom, you are mainly looking for two things: rust and leaks. Check the frame rails for any signs of rust; if you see any, stab it with a screwdriver. If it’s surface rust, nothing will happen, but if it’s really bad rust, the screwdriver will go through it or at least break it off. Frame rust is one of a few things that you can’t really fix, so be prepared to walk away if you discover any.
While you’re under the car, shine your flashlight on any hoses you see, on the oil pan, the transmission pan and the differential. If you see any leaks down there, either walk away, or expect to fix it before you can truly enjoy the vehicle, so consider that when you’re making an offer.
The engine is obviously extremely important if you want this car to climb up hills. Start the car and listen to how it sounds; if you hear any knocks or weird noises, then you have a mechanical issue. The engine should sound steady and consistent. Check the engine and transmission dipsticks to see the condition of the oil. If it looks dark brown or smells burnt, then it’s a sign the last owner didn’t replace the oil as often as they should, which could also mean there is internal damage. If you have your tools with you and want to get an estimate of how much you will need to spend on it, remove one or two spark plugs and inspect their tips; if they appear burnt, you will need a new set of plugs. Also check the condition of the rubber hoses under the hood; if they’re dry or cracked, then you will need to replace them.
The test drive will say a lot about the car, so hop in and go for a drive. The first thing you want to feel is how it handles. Does the suspension squeak? Does the car drive straight? How well do the brakes perform? Be sure to put the car through the test, so step on the gas and feel how it accelerates or if it lags and hesitates. The driving test should tell you whether you will get the car or not, so try to go for a long drive, and if possible, go in and out of parking lots to truly test the suspension of the vehicle.
If the vehicle doesn’t feel right, don’t commit yourself to it; there are plenty of others on the internet. Remember to check the value of similar vehicles; if the owner is asking for more than what it’s worth, you can show them the value and cut the price down. When you finally make the decision to buy it, be sure to leave room in your budget to fix anything you are having problems with; the last thing you want is to buy an awesome off-road vehicle and not be able to use it immediately.