2013 Honda Accord Sport
2015 Toyota Camry XSE
May be seen driving his mom’s Accord, or the new “youth-oriented” Camry. Click image to enlarge

Article by Justin Pritchard

Uncertainty is the primary thing that keeps used-car shoppers up at night, as they wonder if they’re getting a good deal, if the seller is hiding something, or whether the vehicle in question will provide years of worry-free motoring. Was the vehicle loved, respected and cherished? Or was the potential new ride in question neglected or abused or treated like a play-thing?

Remember – if in doubt, a mechanic can give your potential new ride a going-over quickly and affordably, checking out major systems and components for signs of expensive trouble. Your favourite mechanic can also expertly look for warning signs that the ride you’re considering was once owned by any of the following folks.

Name: Neutral-Drop Ned

Age: 18

Likes: Vaporizing other people’s tires, Metallica, staying out late, Fubar movies, chirping his buds

Dislikes: His parents, stop signs, the local police force, traction control

Habits: Ned might drive the family Camry, but that doesn’t stop him from engaging in racecar-style antics every chance he gets. Ned is like a motoring Honey Badger – he doesn’t give a hoot. He loves the smell of burning tires, loves the sound of the rev-limiter, and has minimal between-the-ears horsepower when it comes to understanding the concepts of vehicular longevity and repair costs. Often, Ned gives into peer pressure, possibly engaging in Neutral-Drops to impress his buddies and (especially) the ladies by engaging maximum revs in neutral and then slamming the transmission into DRIVE for a wicked-awesome burnout. Further, Ned operates the throttle, steering and brakes like on/off switches and has no mechanical sympathy.

Concerns: Neutral Drop Ned’s car likely has some degree of transmission damage, tire and brake wear – and isn’t likely to live as long and healthy a life as if someone a little more, er, gentle, drove it. Pay close attention to transmission shift quality, noting any slipping, surging or clunking. Be sure the shifter moves smoothly between all positions, and note that a knocking noise from under the hood could be the result of a baffed motor or transmission mount. Scrutinize the tires and brakes to be sure Ned hasn’t been driving the model in question. Check the transmission fluid for signs of excessive contamination, or a black, burned look or smell. Ned’s dad wonders why he has to replace the rubber every few months, but this time around, he’ll try and pass the bill for new tires onto you. If you or your mechanic suspects that Ned has had some seat time in the model you’re considering, move to another model for maximum confidence.

Volkswagen Golf TDI2015 Volvo V602014 BMW 328i Touring
Call it a wagon or crossover, the important thing is trunk space enough for a day’s antiquing. Click image to enlarge

Name: Oblivious Olga

Age: 54

Likes: Yoga, Payless BOGO sales, gardening, Pinterest, cherub figurines

Dislikes: Her daughter-in-law, visiting her mechanic

Habits: Olga knows the important thing about cars – than they have keys that you turn to make them go. To Olga, operating a vehicle requires starting the engine and driving off, with occasional stops to refuel. Simple! She’s not too concerned about oil changes, maintenance, brake servicing or fluid flushes. In fact, she doesn’t know what engine oil, maintenance, brake servicing or fluid flushes are. Her last oil change was in 2009, her brakes have been squealing for a year, and her air filter is more full of crap than the dog park after the snow melts.

Concerns: Olga’s car hasn’t been subjected to regular maintenance – the all-important factor when it comes to a vehicle having a long and healthy life. Usually, an owner’s manual has a schedule or log in the back where the dealer mechanic can record the factory-prescribed maintenance jobbies as they’re performed. Olga’s owner’s manual is still wrapped in plastic. Her engine oil is a grimy syrup being pumped through a contaminant-encrusted filter. If that doesn’t cause catastrophic engine damage, her timing belt, which could snap at any moment because it’s never been changed, might.

Olga’s car has limited stopping power because the brakes have never been serviced, and it’s probably achieving dismal fuel mileage too – thanks to that dirty air filter and filthy spark-plugs. Best defense against buying a car formerly owned by Olga? Look for a model with full service records available, or ask a mechanic’s opinion as to whether the vehicle appears to have been well maintained.

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