I’m constantly berated with questions about acquiring cars. Although I’m touted for my success in enjoyment and reliability to value, so few ever take my actual advice. So rather than having to recite my script to them, after owning 65 cars by the age of 30, I’ve come up with this approach to acquiring junk cars.
Never spend more than $1000 on a car.
How to buy cars like Quinn:
1. First Start:
Check if the engine is warm when you view the car for the first time. (This is at best, a small red flag, if they’ve had it running before you arrive. Cold starts have a bit more information to them. If they do have the car warm already, no worry still check it out! )
I like cold starts as it shows the speed the motor turns over, how long it takes to fire and catch, any awful noises it makes while it’s cold, and any smoking it has before it warms up!
-Check the oil, see if there is any, how black it is. The more golden it is, the better. (To check the oil, pull the dipstick, clean it, reinsert, check the level now! Check the colour too, gold good, black, not as good. Foamy, not a great sign.)
-Coolant, as long as the engine is cold, check the coolant in the radiator! Low or can’t see any, bad sign, Clear, green, or red, good sign. Brown or black, very bad sign!
-Brake fluid, Clear/golden, is good, brown, not so good. No fluid? No good.
3. Wiggle the tires!
-Grab each wheel with your hands. Wiggle each aggressively left to right, then top to bottom. Any clunks might mean poor suspension joints, or a bad wheel bearing. Be rude when wiggling! It won’t injure the car.
4. Fiddle with all the bits!
-Try the signals, wipers, horn, brakes, hand brake, buckles, windows.
-Take it for a drive, beat it up a bit. Be rude on the test drive, try an emergency stop. If the seller is unwilling to let you take a test drive, this is a major red flag. Find something else, there is hundreds of thousands of other cars waiting for sale.
5. Things that don’t matter at all
–Mileage. It doesn’t mean shit. Often High milage is a plus for me, as it means I can get a good deal on a car that’s proven it’s build quality and good care.
–Newness/year. This means nothing. I’ve driven cars brand new right off the delivery truck that were absolute junk piles straight from the factory. Some of the most solid and well built cars have been some of the oldest cars I’ve owned. Year means nothing.
–Paint/visual damage/dirt. I used to buy dirty cars, clean them and sell them for triple what I paid. The dents, scratches, dings, and bangs have no direct connection with the mechanical quality of the vehicle. Inspect the parts that make the car run, stop and turn.
–Cracks in the glass. I’ve heard a lot of absolute nonsense about front windshields being structural. Unless your location in the world requires an unbroken windshield, then ignore the small chips and cracks.
–“old tires” is a lot of nonsense bullshit. The tires are the windows to the sole of the car. Look for wear patterns. I like old tires on cars as I get a good view of how evenly they’ve worn over time. The age or condition of a cars tires shouldn’t be the deciding factor of your purchase. Use the tires as a way of measuring the vehicles interaction with the road. Odd wear patterns are more of a red flag than the tires manufacturing date.
6. Advanced tips:
–“Where is this car parked usually” is a question I like to ask. You can then look for any long term leaks.
–“How long have you owned it?” Find out some history, some people spill about problems and abuse they’ve experienced or subjected the car to.
–“Will you take -60% of asking price- for it?” Just ask, don’t be afraid. It’s only rude, if you make it rude.
–Try some of the worse advertised ads. The worst the info/photos, the better the car can possibly be. Also, the more likely no one else has called.
–Offer trades, it doesn’t have to be all cash all the time. Be friendly, don’t be a jerk!
–Dealerships are a HUGE waste of money. They have incredible overhead that you are paying for. If you are having trouble with sellers with private sales, you, yourself must be the problem. Have a good attitude.
7. Things to remember.
We’re all people, individuals with different traits. It never helps to be rude or aggressive. Inversely, don’t take crap from anyone. Don’t feel rushed, it’s your money. There is thousands of cars for sale every day. Be friendly, have fun, maybe you’ll make a new friend! Everyone has stories of their cars, and although people might not be ‘car people’ their cars are often still a member of the family, so show some love and respect for the seller and their car.