ROXBURY, NJ - How many times do you find yourself making that uneasy decision to buy a used car? Wouldn’t the process be so much easier if you had a friend who happened to be a mechanic by your side? 

Well in a way you do. I’ve been in the auto repair business for over 30 years and I always recommend before you purchase a used car you take that extra step and have the car inspected by a certified mechanic.

I’ve had countless customers bring in a newly purchased used car for some simple maintenance, only to discover a major problem.  Had they just added that one-hour inspection prior to purchase, they may have found the problem ahead of time and avoided the hassles and expense.

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Many consumers think a clean CARFAX, Experian or VIN report is all you need to determine if a car is accident-free. But many times an accident or flooded vehicle may not have been reported properly. The best way to determine if a vehicle is free of damage or due soon for a repair, timing belt or brakes, is to bring the vehicle to a reputable repair shop for a very thorough once-over.

A good vehicle inspection will have a mechanic looking extensively for frame damage, mismatching paint, or even re-painted surfaces that are camouflaging a hidden repair.  A long look under the hood will determine if the engine and transmission have been properly maintained or if they show any signs of burning oil or fluids. Battery connections should be clean and dry and there should be no modifications to the engine to indicate the car was used for racing or otherwise abused.  

I insist that a car is put on a lift for a bumper-to-bumper exam of the exhaust system, brakes, tires, suspension and searched for evidence of leaks and any rust on the underside of the vehicle. The mechanics should get inside the vehicle and check every electronic feature starting with any warning lights on the dash. Are all the interior lights working? The radio? The mirrors? Do the heat and air conditioning, locks, doors and windows operate smoothly and does the trunk latch properly? 

Once everything checks out at the shop, the car should be taken for a test drive. If there are brake or bearing issues, they will be felt and heard when taking turns and driving at different speeds. I’m always looking for how the transmission sounds and how smooth the driving performance will be on various road surfaces and how easily the engine transitions into higher speeds.   

When all the inspections are complete, I like to take the extra time to discuss the warranty incentives the seller is offering and what price may be appropriate based on age and condition of the vehicle. Once armed with all this information, you should feel confident negotiating a fair price if you have determined the car is still worth purchasing.

So the next time you pass that used car lot and spy that perfect used car, give your friend a call. I’ll help you decide if that car really is the right one for you.

Peyton Knight is co-owner of Knight’s Automotive Repair. Knight’s Automotive Repair, a TAPinto Roxbury sponsor, is located at 171 East Main St. in the Ledgewood section of Roxbury.  Give Peyton a call at (973) 927-0114 if you have any used car or new car buying questions.