Things to Check on a Used Car

Your car is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make—second only to purchasing a home. It can be stressful, and it’s easy to forget the basics. So we’ve put together a list of things to check on a used car before you buy.

Check under the hood

This is one of the most important things to check on a used car, and should be top of your list of steps when performing a pre-purchase inspection. Check all of the accessible fluids—not just the engine oil.

All of the fluids should be filled to their full marks and clean. You can read up on how to check car fluids, but in general, this is what good fluids should look like:

  • Oil: should be honey colored. It should not smell burnt
  • Brake fluid: should be clear to honey colored
  • Power steering fluid: should be honey colored
  • Transmission fluid: should be pink and not smell burnt
  • Coolant: should be green, yellow, blue or red depending on the manufacturer

When inspecting your future ride, you’ll want to take a look at the coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid and automatic transmission fluid. Some modern vehicles have electric power steering and lack a dipstick for the transmission, but check what you can. While you’re poking around under there, you’ll also want to check for fluid leaks.

SAFETY TIP: Hot exposed metal can reach temperatures hot enough to burn errant hands, and opening a hot radiator cap could burst off and cause severe injury. Before your test drive, pop the hood while the engine is still cool.Checking out the engine

Pay attention to the gauges

Once you’ve checked all the fluid levels, the next thing to check on a used car is the gauges. Not all drivers pay close attention to them, but they’re really important—they provide valuable information about the health of the vehicle.

During the test drive, pay particular attention to the oil pressure and temperature gauges. Allow the vehicle to reach operating temperature and drive it at different speeds and on a variety of roads.

Be sure to idle the car and observe its behavior. Engines are more prone to overheating at idle and low oil pressure is also more likely to be apparent. This is because the oil pump is driven off either the crankshaft or camshaft, meaning the oil pump turns faster at higher RPMs, and builds more pressure.

car gauge

Listen for noises

Turn off the radio and instead listen to what the car has to say. Listen for clunks, rattles, groans and any other abnormalities. Make sure to test drive the vehicle at various speeds, both in town and on the highway. Some of the most important noises to listen for include:

  • Engine noises: knocking, rattling, or pinging from the engine indicate potential big-time problems.
  • Transmission noises: whining, growling or rattling noises from the transmission area could quickly empty your pocket book.
  • Differential and transfer case noises: whining or growling noises from the rear end and/or transfer case (if the vehicle is a four-wheel drive) are a very bad sign.

A general rule of thumb is no news is good news; quiet is good.

Check the vehicle history

A Carfax report will provide insight as to whether a vehicle has been in an accident, if it has a clean title and how many owners it’s had. Don’t buy a used car without one.

What does Carfax tell you?

Check the undercarriage

Unless you’re buying a truck or SUV, you probably won’t be able to get completely under the vehicle for a lookie loo. However, you should still make a point of getting down to peek under the vehicle, looking for fluid leaks and damaged parts.

While you’re at it, take a look at the condition of the tires. After all, paying for a new set of tires is an ugly expense after shelling out significant money for the car itself. Tires should have at least 5/32” worth of tread (2/32” is the minimum to pass safety in most states), should be free of sidewall cracks and bulges, and should have a production date less than 10 years old. On all tires produced since year 2000, the last two digits of the DOT number listed on the sidewall will list the production date. For example, in the image below, the tire was manufactured in 2007.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 2.14.22 PM
Image courtesy of TireRack.com

There, that’s it! You’re now a pro and won’t have any trouble inspecting your next used car — right?

The Rain Rundown

Over the past month or so, El Niño has been sweeping the nation. No, it’s not a hip boyband, although it did make a famous appearance back in 1998. Reactions to this millennial incarnation of El Niño are mixed. Flourishing gardens, wicked surf, and the perfect atmosphere for days-long cuddle sessions have left many Americans singing El Niño’s praises. But drawbacks to this unique weather pattern are serious, especially when it comes to driving. Slick, puddle-filled highways and byways may be an unfamiliar and dangerous challenge to California drivers.

Continue reading “The Rain Rundown”

What to look for when buying a used car

From the spotless leather seats to the smell of a freshly cleaned car, shopping for a new car can feel like going on a first date. The potential problem? If you have rose-colored glasses on, it can be easy to forget you’re really searching for a long-term partner. To help you keep a level head about your next better half, we put together a list of what to look for when buying a used car.

This advice comes directly from Shift’s Advisor Team and Concierges, who help people take new rides for a spin every day, and what advice they give customers most. The response was unanimous: the trick is to find your own perfect balance between performance, reliability, and practicality — and something you like. Here’s what we suggest.

Do (a little) homework

Normally, a solid checklist of what to look for when buying a used car will include things like the car’s service history, a clean Carfax report and signs of an unreported accident. In addition to that (we’ve covered that in detail here), we recommend reading online to find out more about the model and combing through the listing carefully to be sure the specific car you’re eyeing has the engine, transmission and other important options that you want.

Re-create your daily routine

Things might seem rosy when you’re walking a typical dealership lot, but one of the most important things to look for when buying a used car is how it works in your own turf. One advantage of taking a test drive at home is the opportunity to test how a car fits with the particulars of your daily life. If you have a driveway, make sure you won’t scrape the bottom as you pull in; if you park in a snug garage, double check that you can open the doors enough to easily get out of the car. Live on a narrow street? Be sure to try a U-turn, then parallel park. And if you generally sit in traffic during a morning commute, try to schedule your test drive during a similarly congested hour.

Consider your passengers

During the test drive, be sure to toss the keys to your Concierge and take a spin in the passenger seat. Or, better yet, go pick up your significant other so you can take turns riding shotgun. If you have kids or pets, make sure the car will work for them, too. Have toddlers in your present or future? Be sure you can get the car seat in without throwing out your back.

Finance or cash? How to pay for your car

Consider your bells and whistles

When it comes to options, think about whether you prefer something simple and intuitive or all the latest features. Does a backup camera matter when you’re parking? Are you dying for a power lift gate? How about GPS navigation? Electronics are also becoming more important with every model year. Sync up your phone with the entertainment system, listen to a playlist, make a few calls. Everything should work easily and intuitively, especially if you make a lot of hands-free calls or depend on music to break the monotony of a long commute.

Think long-term

At some point, turn off the stereo and listen to the car. Is that gruff exhaust note going to turn grating after the novelty wears off? Can you really get comfortable in the seat? Can you see and reach all the controls? Do you have clear visibility of the road ahead (and behind) you? Notice how the car responds against the pavement on both city streets and mountain roads. Many people buy cars based on recommendations from friends or family members, but it’s important that the vehicle feels right for you. Overall, ask yourself, “Is this something I’d be happy to sit in and drive every single day?”

While it’s important to consider your next car thoughtfully, the experience shouldn’t leave you tied up in knots. Relax, get comfortable and have fun. Remember: there’s no pressure to make a quick decision and it’s worth it to wait if it means you’ll be happier in the long run.

Ready to meet your perfect match? We’re always here to help you find the car that fits your lifestyle (plus, you have 5 days or 200 miles to return it it ends up not being “the one”).

Selling a Car on Craigslist? Read this

Buying or selling a car, especially a used car, is usually a pretty terrible experience. It’s inconvenient, time-consuming, and plagued with uncertainty. By and large, the predominant method for most people is still selling a car on Craigslist.

Need groceries? There’s Instacart. Need to sell your vintage jeans? threadUp. Need tickets to Kanye? StubHub’s got them. The list goes on. But when it comes to selling your beloved Prius — one of the biggest financial decisions you’ve made to date — your options are not only limited: they’re antiquated. For most people the process looks something like this: three weeks of dealing with flaky, indecisive buyers; half a dozen text messages in the middle of the night; a person over the phone asking if you’ll extend them a “personal line of credit.” In the 21st century, when there’s an app for almost everything, it’s hard to believe so many people still begrudgingly resort to selling a car on Craigslist.

That’s why we introduced the Shift selling program. It’s an industry-first resource that provides consumers a customized car valuation by considering nuanced data that isn’t used in existing pricing standards like Kelley Blue Book. Our proprietary algorithm considers everything that could impact the sale price: actual transactions, real-time demand, market dynamics and geographic variations (a car that regularly drives through the snow in Salt Lake City will likely be worth a bit less than the same car driven every day in sunny San Diego), making as-needed adjustments for mileage and demand at auction.

How to sell a car on Craigslist

So how does it work? All you have to do is enter some info about your car on our website. We’ll schedule a time to come evaluate your car in person, give you a final offer, and drive it back to our hub. There, we’ll give it a final once-over with our team of mechanics, and send payment straight to your back account. That’s it. Seriously.

Our app is just one more way that Shift is pushing the car industry forward, while staying true to our founding principle: to offer consumers exceptional service for less money, and create a higher standard for the entire industry. That’s why we’re one of the largest dealers in California, and growing.

We think the future of car ownership isn’t selling a car on Craigslist, but rather selling your car in an hour, from your home, in a safe environment, with the money sent directly to your bank. No more wasted Saturdays or late-night texts or sketchy interactions. Just peace of mind.

TIME Magazine takes Shift for a spin

It’s a great time to be here at Shift. We just announced our Series B, have continued to hire smart and talented people, and feel confident in our product.

We’re using technology to fix a broken system, from the bottom up, and are providing an exceptional customer experience.

TIME magazine agrees. Check one reporter’s experience with Shift here. Continue reading “TIME Magazine takes Shift for a spin”