Test driving used cars....

Jay42

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Jul 14, 2005
1,346
429
Okay, I have been doing a little car shopping recently ;) for what will actually be my first car (although I am an experienced driver). I am looking for something that has AWD, is reliable, and is fun to drive. That pretty much narrows it down to the Subaru WRX, which is supposed to be a great car, but, unfortunately, the new models are out of my intended budget. Most used models also seem to have a fair amount of milage and little or no warrantee. I did find one local seller who is trying to get rid of one on short notice with low milage for a reasonable price.

Long story short, I am looking for some advice in what to look for when test driving a used (albeit lightly) car from a private seller. Input from owners of this very popular car would be especially appreciated. I am a little nervous even though this car is still under factory warrantee for a couple years. It's a 2006 WRX sedan with the 5 speed manual.

On a side note, I did drive the automatic WRX at a dealership because they did not have a stick on the lot. I found it to be an incredibly unrewarding and disappointing experience. It felt as if I was on a lawnmower until I hit at least 3k RPM's, and then heard a faint hiss from under the hood (which I assumed was the turbo) and then it started to kick in. Even on hills I couldn't get the thing to kick down into a lower gear. Hardly justifies the $8k or $9k premium over the Impreza. I am really hoping the stick will be more rewarding or I think I will just go for a new 07 Impreza instead, although it will be hard to go back after also testing the 6spd STI :rolleyes:.
 

FJ218700

macrumors 68000
Mar 8, 2007
1,740
0
Blue Dot, Red State
Make sure the tires are evenly worn. If they have been rotated and balanced properly, it is a good indication that the car has been maintained well in other areas, as tires are generally neglected.

check the levels on any fluids in the motor for which you can find a dipstick.

Check the battery terminal for corrosion as this is also a fairly neglected area and will give you some indication of the overall maintance.

There should be no oil anywhere on the underside of the engine.

make sure the clutch is good. Put it into 4th at around 20 mph and hit the gas, the RPM's should not increase.


check under the bumpers for scrape marks (also a good indication if the previous owner was a careful driver)

ask what kind of oil they're running. If they have no idea, that's not good.

most importantly, ask for the maintaince records. If they the owner doesn;t have anything, ask for the specifc places where the car was surfaced (the record will be computerized). If the owner has no idea, they propbably didn't take that much care of the car.

hope this helps
 

Jay42

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Jul 14, 2005
1,346
429
Thanks for the advice. Will a worn clutch slip at low RPM's when you hit the gas?


Input definitely still appreciated since I will be driving and probably making a decision on it tonight.
 

Jay42

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Jul 14, 2005
1,346
429
Don't they sell Lancer Evolutions over there then? ;)
Believe me, the evo and the sti would be on the top of my list if someone was willing to loan me another $10k :eek:

Although there technically are more used models in my price range, I really can't justify buying an sti or evo with 80k miles when I could get a low milage wrx or even a brand new Impreza 2.5i with a full warrantee for the same price.
 

iGav

macrumors G3
Mar 9, 2002
9,025
1
Believe me, the evo and the sti would be on the top of my list if someone was willing to loan me another $10k :eek:
Ignore me, I was still under the impression that Mitsubishi produced a lukewarm version of the Lance Evolution... 220-225bhp. They also used to sell a GT-a version as well, that was slightly more civilised. But not much. ;)

Shame you guys don't get the Focus ST over there, or the Mégane 225... you'd have much more fun in either of those.

I really can't justify buying an sti or evo with 80k miles when I could get a low milage wrx or even a brand new Impreza 2.5i with a full warrantee for the same price.
Can't fault your thinking there.

I wish I was spending my time test driving turbocharged 4WD things... I'm currently on the hunt for a new (well a couple of years old, but you get the drift) car for my bro.

I've been spending my days in mid-range mediocrity (actually that's not entirely fair) Alfa Romeo 147's, 156's and Sportwagons, Ford Mondeo's, Renault Mégane's and Laguna's, SEAT Leon's and Toledo's and VW Bora's and Passat's.

So far... I think he needs some Twin Spark goodness best. ;) :D
 

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,910
2,480
St. Louis, MO
Ignore me, I was still under the impression that Mitsubishi produced a lukewarm version of the Lance Evolution... 220-225bhp. They also used to sell a GT-a version as well, that was slightly more civilised. But not much. ;)
http://www.mitsubishicars.com/MMNA/jsp/evo/06/trims.do?loc=en-us#trimsTab

That should answer your questions about the million different models of Evos sold here. There also is (was?) the Lancer Ralliart that's somewhere between the plain old Lancer and the Evo as far as power, features and price goes
 

ErikCLDR

macrumors 68000
Jan 14, 2007
1,795
0
Check to make sure the body pannels line up. A lot of times you can see if body pannels have had work done, because they don't line up.

Check the tires. Unequal wear can mean they never rotated them, or that there is a suspension/alignment issue.

Check all the fluid levels. Oil, Power Steering, Coolant (when car is cold), and everything that you see that you can check. Also ask to see maintence records and maybe think about doing a CarFax Report.

There shouldn't be any major leaks. Its not uncommon to see some oil under the engine. Being a 2006 though you probably should expect to see very very very little or none. Look to see where the car is parked normally for evidence of possible leakage.

When driving it should obviously drive straight and the suspension should not be bouncy going over bumps. Also roll down the windows while driving so that you'll hear if there are any audible issues.


The car is a 2006, how many miles does it have on it? Being that young of a car, and assuming it doesn't have too many miles on it, I highly doubt there is anything that is mechanically wrong with it unless the owner didn't take care of it and/or got in a car accident. Subarus are know to be very reliable


I would also reccomend having a trusted mechanic check it out before you buy it to point out any issues he sees.
 

Powerbook G5

macrumors 68040
Jun 23, 2003
3,974
0
St Augustine, FL
Check all the body panels and make sure that they are all original. They should have a sticker or stamp with the vin or something if they are original body panels. Also, check the paint for over spray or any other indication of body work. I'd even go as far as recording the vin and going online to carfax and getting a report done to check on its history. Make sure it looks well maintained and that everything works well. Finally, don't be afraid to shop the price against Kelly Blue Book, NADA, and check the auctions as well as Autotrader, Netlook, and eBay to see the going price.
 

Chrismcfall

Suspended
Aug 10, 2006
356
0
I've been spending my days in mid-range mediocrity (actually that's not entirely fair) Alfa Romeo 147's, 156's and Sportwagons, Ford Mondeo's, Renault Mégane's and Laguna's, SEAT Leon's and Toledo's and VW Bora's and Passat's.
A: How come you drive all these then?

B: Leave the Leon alone. We have a Mk1 FR:eek:
 

ErikCLDR

macrumors 68000
Jan 14, 2007
1,795
0
Kelly Blue Book is so off on their car quotes. I find that Edmunds has the most realistic prices.