Best cars for Uber or Lyft

If you’re considering throwing some spare time into the ridesharing space, then you’re likely asking yourself: What are the best cars for Uber or Lyft?

Most drivers primarily consider mileage. While that’s definitely an important factor, you also need a reliable, affordable car that can hold passengers and meet Lyft/Uber’s vehicle requirement guidelines.

That still leaves you with enough options to make you dizzy and give up on the whole initiative. Fear not. Our list takes all of your needs into consideration. We’ve rounded up some of the best cars for Uber and Lyft driving.

1. Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius 2012 uber lyft

So you’re probably thinking, “Duh.” Fair enough. The Prius is definitely not a shocker on this list, but there are some important things to consider when buying one. Because the Prius has been around longer than any other hybrid, older models can now be had for less, which isn’t true of most hybrids.

However, the Prius still commands a price premium over its non-hybrid rivals, which increases your up-front cost. Also, if the hybrid battery needs to be replaced, you can expect to pay around $4,000, so you’ll want to look for a car with fewer miles, or a new hybrid battery. The Prius offers little in terms of joie de drive, but it delivers fuel economy that can’t be touched by the competition, particularly in city driving. This is what makes it the hands-down best car for Uber or Lyft.

In short, the Prius is an ideal option for those putting many hours in behind the wheel. If Lyft/Uber is more of a part-time gig, another car might be a better option.

How to Pay for Your Car

2. Ford Focus

2015 Ford Focus uber lyft

The Focus is holding down the fort as the little American car that could. It combines good interior space, solid fuel efficiency (24/35mpg on 2011 models, for example), and a competent chassis that is sporty, while still soaking up the bumps. The steering is sharper than most economy cars, making the Focus very maneuverable in city traffic. It offers a spacious 36.1 inches of rear legroom, and many newer models are available with Bluetooth for audio — some of the key reasons the Ford Focus is one of the best cars for Uber or Lyft driving.

3. Toyota Corolla

Toyota corolla 2014 uber lyft

The ninth-generation Toyota Corolla is as ubiquitous as Beyonce. Look out your window right now, you see a Corolla, don’t you? Toyota sold about a billion and a half of these cars, and there’s a reason why: they are reliable, cheap, and fuel efficient. 35.4 inches of rear legroom means your passengers will be comfortable, and the 26/35mpg fuel efficiency means you’ll save at the pump.

While the Corolla isn’t exactly known for pizzazz, if you’re looking for more enthusiasm, pick up an XRS model, which offers 170 horsepower. Just be aware that the XRS doesn’t offer the same stellar fuel economy. The Corolla has best in class cost of ownership according to KBB, which is another reason we regard it as a great car for Uber and Lyft.

Car-Buying Mistakes To Avoid

4. Honda Fit

2015 Honda Fit uber lyft

The Honda Fit is a fantastic choice for your ride-share workhorse. This little Honda combines great mileage with surprising interior capacity and a splash of fun. The Fit delivers better fuel economy than the larger Honda Civic, and actually has more rear legroom than its big brother (34.5” in 2011 models). The Fit is touted for superior cost of ownership in its class, so you can be sure your earnings are going into your bank account, not your mechanic’s. Toss the Fit into a turn, and it feels nimble and willing to have a little fun. If you don’t mind rowing your own gears, Honda also makes one of the best manual transmissions in the game.

5. Mazda3

2014 mazda3 uber lyft

If you are looking for a little enthusiasm, perhaps even a little zoom-zoom, check out the Mazda 3. You and your passengers will be greeted by a wonderfully designed interior with high quality materials. The Mazda 3 also offers fantastic chassis dynamics, sublime steering, and spirited acceleration that will make you believe you’re driving a sports car, not a ho-hum econobox. It’s as if Mazda managed to splice some Miata DNA into their compact car’s double-helix. The Mazda 3 just begs to be driven, and that matters when you’ll be driving so much.

It’s worth noting that the 2012 and newer models with SKYACTIV engines achieve a fantastic 40 mpg on the highway. Combine this amazing fuel efficiency with a low cost of ownership, and you have what might be the perfect car, ride-sharing or otherwise.

Happy ride-sharing!

What Does Carfax Tell You?

The last time we wrote about Carfax, we covered what it includes and why it’s a crucial part of making an informed purchase. Although Carfax reports are a great insight into vehicle history, they don’t tell us everything. So what does Carfax tell you, and what is it leaving out?

Does Carfax tell you about every accident?

Not necessarily. Let’s say two drivers get in a crash and there’s damage to the cars. Call the insurance company, right? Not always. For various reasons, some crashes are settled between the drivers themselves with DIY fixes or at smaller garages that may have fewer scruples about officially reporting the repair. When this happens, there’s a chance that Carfax is none the wiser about the incident at all.

Sometimes, people will try to sell a car right after an accident has occurred. That way, they get rid of it before it’s appeared on Carfax and the buyer might never know. This is more common when the damage isn’t obvious, such as undercarriage damage. At Shift, we perform a thorough 200-point inspection so that you’ll always be informed about hard-to-spot damage.

On that note, Carfax is only as accurate as its data sources, and not all DMVs and insurance companies contribute their data. Carfax has 92,000 or so sources of vehicle information, but it’s not omniscient.

For example, a history report may list a car as accident-free, but if a collision was fixed by an insurance company that doesn’t contribute data to Carfax, it won’t show up in the report. The same is true if the owner of the car never reported it to the insurance company. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. The good news is, the vast majority of what’s out there is indeed captured, so the chances of missing something aren’t very high.

nice old car for sale

Does Carfax tell you about “lemons” and buybacks?

Well… not always. Cars are complex pieces of machinery. Sometimes, something in the car’s mechanics just ain’t right and it’s constantly plagued with problems as a result. That’s a lemon. To protect car buyers from purchasing lemons, states have a set of laws called Lemon laws.

These laws make it possible for a buyer to return a non-performing car to the manufacturer. When this happens, that car is considered to be a “lemon law buyback”. In most states, this is required to be put on the title. In some states, however, there is a loophole to this rule. Instead of labeling a car a lemon law buyback, cars in those states are labeled “manufacturer vehicle, sold at auction.”

It’s a trade secret that’s well understood among sophisticated car buyers and dealerships know that you now also know: when a Carfax report labels a car “manufacturer vehicle, sold at auction,” it very well may be a lemon. The good news is, we’ll never list these cars, so you can browse Shift with confidence.

Be a diligent buyer

As Carfax themselves put it: Carfax should be seen as one tool in the buyer’s fact-finding toolkit, not the only one. Make sure you take a comprehensive test-drive and have the car checked out by a mechanic. If you’re looking for high-quality cars where the degree of mystery is minimized, browse our selection of Shift Certified cars near you.

Shift’s Giveaway Picks: Isabel’s Surfin’ 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R

In case you haven’t heard, Shift is giving away a car. Even though Shift employees can’t win, we can still dream, right?

 

Meet Isabel. She works on our Business Intelligence team. If she won the giveaway, what car would she pick? Continue reading “Shift’s Giveaway Picks: Isabel’s Surfin’ 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R”

How Does Carfax Work?

When it comes to a car’s condition, people often mention the Carfax report. So just how does Carfax work?  A Carfax report is your window into a car’s past. Like a private eye, it gleans data from insurance companies, DMVs, and even the police to tell you about a car’s background.

In the most extreme cases, it can save you from buying a lemon. That’s why we include a full free Carfax report for every car we list on Shift so customers know exactly what they’re getting (and what they’re not).

How does Carfax actually work?

A Carfax report is essentially a data snapshot of a number of different available data records. It gathers information from police departments, insurance companies, DMVs, and auction houses to piece together a history on nearly every car out there. Their data-gathering team in Virginia adds about 3.5 million records a day, with a compiled total of about 15 billion records.

How does Carfax help in buying a used car?

Big Lebowski car impoundThe records included in a Carfax report tell you things you wouldn’t know by just going for a test drive or having a mechanic inspect the car (things you should also do, by the way). A Carfax report is a little like a crystal ball that can give you a picture of a car’s past, such as:

  • Odometer readings and repair history
  • Number of past owners
  • Any accidents reported by DMVs, insurance companies, or police departments
  • Whether the car’s a lemon or been salvaged or junked
  • Whether a car was ever used as a fleet vehicle, autos used by businesses and often subject to lots of abuse
  • Lien and repossession history
  • Emission inspection statuses
  • Manufacturer recalls and buybacks

All of this info lets you avoid getting scammed and helps you make a more informed decision about the car you’re about to buy.

Where does all that data come from?

Carfax must have an army of data crawlers trolling the internet because the company culls data from about 92,000 sources—everything from motor vehicle agencies, to many police and fire departments, collision repair facilities, and auto auctions (Shift uploads all of our diagnostic and repair data to Carfax, too!)

Here’s their list of all of the sources:

  • Fire departments
  • Manufacturers
  • Law enforcement agencies U.S. motor vehicle agencies
  • Canadian provincial motor vehicle agencies
  • Auto auctions and salvage auctions
  • Collision repair facilities
  • Service/maintenance facilities
  • Insurance companies
  • Automotive recyclers
  • Rental/fleet vehicle companies
  • State inspection stations
  • Extended warranty companies
  • Car dealerships Import/export companies

How much does Carfax cost?

Carfax's Carfox
Carfox: easily our favorite mascot in the car space

Carfax has a three-tiered pricing model. If you’re going to test drive more than one car, and you probably will, you might want to get the second option, which provides five reports.

  • MyCarfax: A free app that includes provides info on maintenance and recalls for vehicles
    , as well as estimate repair costs and help finding local repair services. Doesn’t include Vehicle History Reports.
  • 1 Carfax Report: $39.99
  • 5 Reports:  $59.99 (valid for 60 days)
  • Unlimited Reports for 60 days: $69.99 gets you unlimited by searching by license plate
  • Shift: Free. Zip. Zilch.

At the end of the day, the Carfax report is one of the most important pieces of documentation you can get on a used car, so be sure to get one when you go shopping.

Tips for Buying a Used Car on Craigslist

When it works like it should, buying a used car on Craigslist can be great. But since there’s no way to ensure what you’re getting, quality on Craigslist can be hit or miss and it can feel a bit like the Barbary Coast, with mischief and gold in equal measure. Here are 9 essential tips to get you through it.

Tip # 1: Use Craigslist filters

This is our top tip for buying a used car: narrow your search. We suggest taking advantage of Craigslist’s built-in filters, which include options such as price, year, color, transmission type, type of seller (owner or dealer), and more. This will help you narrow your search to what you’re looking for and avoid wading through listings of salvaged title, three-wheeled PT Cruisers.

  • Search by dealer. For those who would prefer the peace of mind of a dealer warranty, this filter’s for you.
  • Search by price or year. If you have a budget but don’t want anything too old, easily define your price and model year limits.
  • Search by feature. Buying a car for someone with very specific tastes but only drives automatic? You can specify for color and transmission, too.
  • Search by car. If you know exactly the car you want, say a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am with the screaming chicken on the hood and Burt Reynold’s scent on the seats, Craigslist is perfect. You can plug in the exact model specification, right down to the color, transmission, and condition.

Tip #2. Research a fair price range

Before you start test driving, it’s important to how have an idea how much a car in your area should cost. There are many pricing guides out there, and while one-sized-fits-all pricing guides like KBB won’t perfectly capture the fair price for your market, it’s a good starting point.

If it’s listed way over your fair price range, you may want to skip that car. Sometimes if you wait, the seller will come to their senses and lower the price to something more reasonable.

Tip #3: Heed warning signs

This is one of the most basic tips for buying a used car on Craigslist: The listing itself can tell you a lot about the seller, as well as the car. So pay attention to these red flags:

  • Low-quality listings. Suspiciously short listings with numerous misspellings, all caps, and a general lack of details about the car smack of “keep looking.”
  • Minimal photos. A listing with one blurry, sideways photo isn’t worth your time. A huge red flag is people who post pictures that are not even of their car. Not exactly trust-building stuff is it?
  • Sloppy presentation. When we wrote our guide to selling a car on Craigslist, there’s a reason we focused so much on presentation and cleanliness. Instilling buyer confidence is step #1, and junk strewn about the interior doesn’t do that. If the seller hasn’t bothered to present the car nicely for sale, they probably haven’t been any more thoughtful owning it, either.
  • Multiple listings of the same car. If you see a car posted multiple times over a few days, it’s not a good sign.

Some good signs are clear writing, lots of pictures of a relatively clean car (including the engine), a list of recent maintenance, and just a general sense that the seller knows their stuff. We vet every car listed on Shift to make sure you have all of these things, including detailed photos, a comprehensive inspection, and a seamless interaction (not to mention an amazing car).

How to Sell a Car on Craigslist

Tip #4: Make contact

It’s a good idea to call the seller before seeing the car. Communicating via email just isn’t going to tell you as much. Don’t be afraid to ask a few questions like: why are you selling the car, how long have you owned it, what maintenance is needed and what’s been done lately? Pay attention to how the seller responds. Do they seem trustworthy, or do they give you the creeps? Are they over-eager, or do they sound like they’ve been asleep for six days?

It’s important to consider the overall vibe that they are giving you. Your time is valuable, and nothing is worse than carving out a few hours of your Saturday to go see a car, then getting a text saying the seller flaked when you’re two blocks from where you planned to meet. You can learn a lot from a quick chat on the phone. It’s worth it.

Tip #5: Be Safe

This is, we think, one of the most important tips for buying a used car on Craigslist: do it safely. That means meeting in a safe, mutually agreed upon location in an area where you can really drive the car, ideally in a well-traveled area and during a safe hour of the day. (If you meet the seller downtown, it’ll be tough to get a full sense for how the car drives, so try for something like a mall parking lot.)

As a buyer, you may be asked to go to the seller’s house. Be sure that you feel comfortable doing so, and if you do, it’s not a bad idea to bring a friend. Continue to assess the seller and make sure they are someone you trust. Ask a lot of questions and insist that you drive the car. If the seller balks, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Carfax's Carfox
Easily our favorite mascot in the car space

Tip #6: Do an inspection

We’ve covered this in another article, but a post-purchase inspection (often called the PPI) is worth paying for. Buying a car without inspecting it is like buying a house without an appraisal. A seller with nothing to hide should agree to it, so negotiate an appropriate deposit to leave with the seller while you take it to the mechanic. Bonus: What you learn can be used to help negotiate the price, which brings us to our next tip.

Tip #7: Run a Carfax report

A Carfax vehicle history report is a must-have for buying any used car. It’s easy, it can tell you a lot about the car’s history, and it can help you make sure you’re not driving off in a car with a bent frame, flood damage, and 17 owners in three years.

It’s a known Craigslist scam for a seller to kindly provide a Carfax report—from three years ago, prior to extensive post-accident bodywork. If the seller is providing their own Carfax, check the date.

If you care at all about full transparency (and with a purchase as big as a car, you should), buying with Shift not only gets you a full Carfax report for free, but also high-res wear-and-tear photos and a complete 200-point inspection report for every car we sell.

Tip #8: Don’t be afraid to negotiate

Craigslist is one of the few places where Americans can still (sometimes) haggle. Sellers often list their cars at a slightly inflated price expecting to negotiate down. That said, this isn’t a rug shop in Marrakesh, so be realistic. When negotiating, try not to be too emotional (or rude) and be able to explain your reasoning with facts.

For example, you can use information gleaned from the inspection to help support your case for a lower price. If the car needs a $300 brake job, you can see if the seller will accommodate for that in the price. Or, if the seller has the car priced well above book value (which you should research beforehand), you can see if they are willing to reflect that discrepancy with a lower price.

That said, don’t let it ruffle your feathers if they don’t want to come down on their price. It’s their car and they are not obliged to do so.

Tip #9: Take your time and trust your gut

Rushing to buy a car is the easiest way to get a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse. Throughout it all, listen to your gut. Don’t force a deal if something feels off. Buying a used car should be a methodical process, not a quick fix. When you find the right car, you’ll probably know it, and it will probably not be the first car you see.

Buying a used car on the private market can be intimidating, which is part of the reason we founded Shift in the first place. If you’re looking for a safer, more straight-forward alternative (that’s a heck of a lot of more convenient), check us out.

Car Buying Tips & Mistakes To Avoid

Buying a car is tricky business. After your house, a car purchase is likely to be the most expensive decision you make. To help you have the best possible experience, here are some car buying tips and common mistakes to avoid.

Car Buying Tip #1: Don’t buy a car with a salvaged title

This is the mother of all car buying mistakes. Why? First, the reason the car was salvaged—totaled in an accident, stolen, or flooded—are sufficient reasons to walk away. Second, resale value is going to be awful, and most buyers won’t even be interested. Third, these cars can be hard to register and insure.

Yes, $2,000 for a 2005 BMW 3-series seems like a screaming deal, but you’ll be very sad when the car breaks and you can’t sell it to anyone as it sits in front of your house for two years like a tribute to foolishness. The solution here is easy, don’t do it. How do you know if a car has a salvaged title? You need to get a vehicle history report. Which brings us to our next common mistake.

Car Buying Tip #2: Always get a vehicle history report

Running a vehicle history report such as Carfax is crucial when car shopping. You want to look for things like accidents, evidence of maintenance, and number of previous owners. You can also see if a celebrity once owned the car (bonus points if it was John Voight). If the car has had five owners in three years, you might want to be suspicious. Why would so many people want to part ways with this car?

If the report shows that the car has been in an accident, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if the repairs were done correctly. That being said, you’ll want to be extra careful to look for issues during the test drive. On Shift, you’ll find the Carfax report available from every car’s listing page.

Car Buying Tip #3: Don’t go in with rose-colored glasses

This sounds strange, but falling in love with a car before you buy it can be a mistake. It can cause you to gloss over some things that you’ll regret not noticing later. A friend recently wanted a Toyota 4Runner so badly that he lost sight of the fact that it wasn’t a good choice for him. The 4Runner got poor mileage and was too large and too expensive for his needs.

Try not to get too excited before you agree on a purchase price. Even if the car is right for you, if the seller sees how badly you want it, you might have less bargaining power. (Especially at dealerships.)

Car Buying Tip #4: Stay within your budget

Making a budget for your purchase is important. Ask yourself what you can realistically afford. Consider not just monthly payments, but how long you’d be making those payments. Then be sure to add on costs for maintenance, gas, registration, and insurance. If you haven’t considered these extra costs, you could be in for a sad surprise.

Cars that were more expensive new tend to have higher maintenance costs. Just because a ten year old BMW is the same price as a five-year old Honda doesn’t mean the cost of ownership will be the same.

Car Buying Tip #5: Do a pre-purchase inspection

Before finalizing the purchase, ask if you can have your mechanic take a look at the car. Often referred to as a PPI, it’s an expense that more than pays for itself. Unless you’re great with cars, it’s really hard to spot everything a professional will. If you can, take it to your usual mechanic, since a new mechanic who performs a PPI may suggest unnecessary repairs or fixes that aren’t needed yet.

At Shift we think this is such an important step that we perform a 200-point inspection on every car we list. We include our findings in an inspection report we give every buyer on their test drive, at no extra cost. The inspection is that important.

Car Buying Tip #6: Do your research

You wouldn’t go to a restaurant that you’d heard nothing about for a first date (especially if that meal cost thousands of dollars). You’d ask for a friends advice, you’d check a ratings website, or you’d read a review in the local newspaper. It’s the same deal with buying a car. The internet is full of information about cars, so spend some time learning about your potential new whip before you test drive it.

Car Buying Tip #7: Don’t be a stickler for brand

Just because a car manufacturer built your favorite car—the little yellow hatchback you’ve had since you were a freshman in college—doesn’t mean you should blindly buy from them again. Car manufacturers change over the years. Standards change, manufacturing facilities move, engineers retire, and new CEOs come in. Blind Faith is a great name for a classic rock band, but not a great strategy for buying a car.

Car Buying Tip #8: Make sure it’s passed its emissions and smog tests

In states that require smog tests, this is a bugaboo that really should be avoided. If you buy a car that hasn’t been tested recently, you could get stuck paying for a lot of repairs to make the car passable. It’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure that a car has been smogged recently, so ask for a proof of a current smog certification on the test drive.

Car Buying Tip #9. Be wary of overdue DMV fees 

Unbeknownst to you, a car may have accrued registration fees, parking tickets, or toll violations. You don’t want to be saddled with the previous owner’s baggage, but how do you know if you are? First, you can ask the owner. If you don’t trust them, put on your PI hat and contact the DMV with the license plate number.

Car Buying Tip #10: Ask for maintenance history

If the owner has no idea when the oil was last changed, or has no record of it ever being changed, you should walk away. It’s a sign that the car has been neglected. A good sign is a folder full of receipts for work done at a reputable shop.

Car Buying Tip #11:. Buying a really dirty or rusty car

rusty carWhat mold is to bread, rust is to cars. You don’t eat moldy bread, right? So you don’t want buy a rusty car. If you look under a car and everything looks rusty, walk away. Rust destroys body panels, engine components, suspension pieces, and even hardware. It can mean changing a routine bolt becomes a day-long job for a mechanic. If that sounds expensive, that’s because it is. Do yourself a favor and check the car for rust, especially if you live in an area where the roads are salted during the winter.

Similarly, a dirty car can be a red flag; it mean that the owner doesn’t take good care of it. If they can’t be bothered to clean it up for a prospective buyer, can you expect them to have bothered to change the oil? Also, dirt can conceal dents, body repairs, or paint work. So be wary!

The truth is, car shopping isn’t easy. In fact, it’s enough to make your head spin like a set of radials. But with this list of car buying mistakes and a steady hand, you’ll be behind the wheel of a great car for years to come.

How To Test Drive a Used Car: Your Ultimate Checklist

Most people will buy a used car at least once in their life. It can be an exciting, maddening, and intimidating experience. But if you do it right, it can mean the difference between a lemon and a cherry on top (see what we did there?). Luckily, we’ve learned a few things along the way that can help you make sense of it all. Here’s how to test drive a used car, in a nifty checklist.

Test Drive Pro Tip # 1. Do Your Homework 

Before you head out to do the test drive, do some research. It’s easy to access a mound of information on pretty much any car via the (sometimes) trusty internet. Will you be looking at a Pontiac Aztek because you loved Breaking Bad? Chances are there’s a forum that specializes in Azteks where you can find a buyer’s guide. Go into the test drive knowing what to look for and what to ask about, such as common maintenance items and maladies. Speaking of asking good questions…

Test Drive Pro Tip #2: Ask All the Questions

Asking questions of the owner is absolutely critical and can be as elucidating as driving the car. You want to hit the owner with some great questions, not just “what’s she do in the quarter bro?” You want to buy a car from a person you trust, and you want to get a sense for what ownership is like, and why the owner would want to end their relationship with the vehicle. Some important questions:

  • Why are you selling the car?
  • How long have you owned it, and are you the first owner?
  • Has the car been in an accident?
  • What have you used it for? (If their answer is racing, pass)
  • Has it given you any trouble?
  • How often do you change the oil? (Every 3k miles is the best answer here.)
  • Do you have service records?
  • Where do you get it serviced? (A reputable shop is a good answer, and you can always call them and ask their opinion of the car.)
  • Do you have the title? Is it clean?
  • Where did you buy it?
  • Who did you buy it from?
  • Does it have any issues currently? Does it go through any oil/coolant?

Remember, nobody likes a jerk, so be nice about it; this isn’t Law and Order and you’re not Ice T. If the owner’s answers seem vague, sketchy, or don’t match up, use it as a sign that this car may not be for you.

Test Drive Pro Tip # 3: Look for clues

Bring your flashlight and look around, in, and under the car thoroughly with an eye for the following:

A. Bodywork and VINs: Work your way around the car looking for signs of repainting or overspray around each body panel. Overspray occurs when the body shop repaints a panel and accidentally gets paint spray on an adjacent panel or trim piece.

  • Does one panel look newer than the surrounding panels?
  • Does an area have more texture or undulations than others? Look from different angles and use your flashlight.
  • Look for VIN tags. If a car has had a panel replaced, it may not have the original tag with the VIN stamped onto it. Instead, it might say DOT, which means the panel has been replaced. If so, assume the car has been in an accident.
  • Look for different-sized gaps between the panels.
  • When the owner is not looking, whisper “tell me your secrets, car.”

An accident isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker if it was repaired properly. But if it wasn’t, you could be in for trouble.

B. Leaks: Specifically look for leaking fluids around the engine.

  • Is there oil, coolant, or other fluid dripping anywhere near the engine?
  • Is the engine relatively clean, and is any part of the engine wet with oil?
  • Look for fluid leaking from the shock absorbers.

C. Rust: If you see rust, you probably want to walk away. Like Neil Young said, rust never sleeps, and you don’t want it not sleeping in your car.

  • Look up in the wheel wells with your flashlight.
  • Look at the suspension and inside the quarter panels.

D. Mold and mildew: Mold and mildew inside the car can mean water is leaking into the car. Water: great in oceans, bad in cars.

  • Pull back trunk carpets, look under floor mats, look at the headliner for signs of water.
  • Look at the rubber seals around the doors to make sure they are not torn, brittle, and cracked.

How To Pay for Your Used Car

Test Drive Pro Tip #4. Kick the Tires

Tires are perhaps the most important part of the car, and should not be overlooked, as they can tell you a surprising amount about the car.

  • Do they have decent tread left or are they bald as an eagle?
  • Is the wear even across the tire? If the tires are more worn on the inside than on the outside, the car needs an alignment.
  • Are all four tires equally worn?
  • Are they a brand you’ve heard of?

Tires are not something to be skimped on, and quality tires are a sign that the car has been well-maintained.

Test Drive Pro Tip #5. Check the Fluid 

Oil, coolant, and other fluids are paramount to vehicle operation, so you want to make sure your potential next car has the fluids in the right place. Make sure you do this when the car is not hot.

  • Check the oil and the coolant. If the dipstick indicates that the oil is low, that’s bad. If it is dry, that’s really bad. You’d be surprised how many cars we’ve test driven with low oil. It’s direct evidence that the car hasn’t been well-maintained, which means expensive repairs are looming.

Test Drive Pro Tip #6. Fire it Up

Start the car with the hood open. Listen for funny sounds.

  • Does it idle well?
  • Does it sound smooth?
  • Does it sound like air is escaping?
  • Does smoke come off of the engine?
  • Walk around to the back; does smoke come out of the exhaust? Smoke that doesn’t dissipate shortly after the engine starts could mean the car is burning oil or coolant.

A lot goes into the inspection process, which is just one of the reasons we inspect every car sold on Shift for our customers. The findings from the 200-point inspection are compiled into a report that we give both buyers and sellers so that everyone is on the same page.

Test Drive Pro Tip #7. (Actually) Test Drive It 

You want to drive the car in a way that is going to reveal any issues or maladies that may not be apparent if you were to drive it around the parking lot.

  • Go on the freeway and accelerate briskly up to speed.
  • Brake aggressively (just warn the passengers first) and pay attention to how the pedal feels and if the car pulls in either direction.
  • Does the suspension make a lot of crashing, thumping noises over bumps?
  • Is there a popping sound when your turn?
  • Does the transmission shift smoothly?
  • If it’s a manual, does the clutch engage in a smooth manner? Does it slip?
  • As you drive, pay attention to the sensations from the steering wheel, the pedals, the shifter, and the seat of your pants. You want to look for any signs of anything not working properly. Don’t be afraid to make notes and ask the owner why a vehicle does something odd. If their answer seems satisfactory, that’s a good sign. If not, you can have your mechanic take a closer look. More on that in a bit.
  • Does everything work? Windows, locks, stereo, lights, air conditioning?

After the drive, pop the hood again. Is there any smoke? Is there a sweet smell? If so, that’s not like your grandma’s cookies, that’s coolant, and it’s a bad thing.

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Test Drive Pro Tip #8. Check the Carfax

This is critical. Run the VIN through Carfax. Does the history match what the owner stated? Are there any reported accidents? You may also want to check if any recalls have been issued. Look to make sure the title hasn’t been salvaged. If it has, this car is definitely not for you.

Test Drive Pro Tip #9: Pre-purchase inspection

At Shift, every car is pre-inspected and put through a 200-point examination. But, you might be buying in a car outside of the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and DC areas that Shift serves. If that’s the case, you might want to ask the owner if you can have your mechanic check it out.

A good mechanic will have the tools, skills, and knowledge to spot things that you can’t. Plus, if they find something amiss, you can use it as a way to negotiate a lower price. At Shift, the inspection is a standard part of the process for every car we help sell. Otherwise, the PPI will cost you $100-150, but it’s money well spent as you can know exactly what kind of car you’re buying.

That’s it! Remember, after you’ve gone through this used car test drive checklist, don’t be afraid to walk away from a car that doesn’t seem right. Finding a good used car takes time and patience. When you do find the right car, you’ll smile with satisfaction knowing you bought a ride you can trust.