Just a used car so you have to check for everything.We are going to test drive a Cooper S convertible next week. It is a 2020, with 6,300 miles, that resided in Tampa, and was serviced by the BMW dealer. The only option on the window sticker is the paint: $500.00 for Chili Red. I am interested in specific items for which I should be on the lookout. Thank you.
Maybe you will find this of some value:
Used car check out….
The general advice is to visit the used car cold, open the hood and check the oil level (if possible: more below), leaving the hood open. Give the other vital fluid levels a visual check at least to ensure none are low. If vital fluids are low this could be a warning flag.
In the car start the engine. Be sure all warning lights come on and then go off once the engine has started. Pay particular attention to the CEL. Be sure the A/C is off. You test the A/C later.
Regarding oil level: Some cars don't have a dipstick. So you will have to wait until the engine is up to temperature before you can check the oil level. The engine will almost certainly not get warm enough idling so you will check this oil level later.
Let the engine idle from cold. You want to listen for any signs of ticking/noises or any other signs the engine may not be healthy. A rough idle, backfires, spitting back, anything out of the ordinary.
Might add you have to be concerned about a flood car. So when you first get in the car have your nose on high alert for any off putting odors. Mold-y/mildew-y or worse. (Flood waters are often quite foul.) A heavily perfumed/scented car is also a bit of a red flag.
While the engine is idling get out of the car and walk around the car checking body panel finish, alignment, and gaps. Note the condition of the wheels, looking for any curb rash. Besides how unsightly this can make the wheels look there is the question about the effect on alignment. Check the tires. Ideally they should be factory sanctioned tires and in good condition.
Check the brakes, look at the rotors for signs of damage/excessive wear. A lip around the rotor outer diameter is a sign of rotor wear. The "taller" the lip the more rotor wear there is. Generally a 1mm tall lip is a sign the rotors are worn past their service life. And pads too…
Check the hood and trunk hinges for any signs the fasteners have had wrenches on them. At the front carefully check the radiator fasteners for any signs of wrenching.
After some few minutes of the engine idling -- the longer the better -- and with the engine still running ok and sounding ok have the seller take you on a test ride. The route should be around 15 miles long and chosen to give the driver a chance to demo the car as you intend to use it. What is wanted is a mix of city driving with stop and go, steady moderate speed cruising on like a boulevard, and some highway/freeway driving. Ideally there should be some opportunities -- once the engine is up to temperature -- for some rather hard acceleration with the driver starting out from a standstill or a slow roll and accelerating hard up through at least a couple of gears. No need to smoke the tires or try to duplicate the factory's 0 to 60mph time but you want to experience the engine under hard acceleration to verify it pulls good, runs right, and afterwards shows no ill effects from the hard acceleration.
While a passenger of course pay attention to how the transmission shifts, how the car rides, feels. The car should not want to pull to one side or the other and the hard acceleration should give the driver a chance to perform a hard braking. No tire lock up but you want to verify the brakes have plenty of bite and the car tracks straight under hard braking.
With an automatic I recommend having the driver do a k-turn with the engine/transmission cold to see how the transmission reacts to repeated/rapid changes in direction.
For a manual I'll add there is the close observation the transmission has no tendency to pop out of gear. At take off the clutch should engage smoothly with no signs of grabbing. Once the engine is up to temperature where the road allows it a hard acceleration in 4th or 5th gear starting around 2K to 2.5K RPMs and holding full power as long as is safe and prudent is to see if the clutch slips. The "best" gear depends. You want to choose a gear that ideally is 1:1. If the transmission doesn't offer a 1:1 gear then the gear which is closed to 1:1 without being lower than that. You want to avoid any lower gear ratio which multiplies torque which tends to reduce the load on the clutch.
To know gear ratios you'll have to research this online. Or go with 4th gear.
Let me add if the clutch slips there is no need to repeat the test. The clutch will not get better only worse. A clutch slipping under the test conditions is bad and needs to be replaced.
After the 15 mile test ride then back at the starting point -- leaving the engine running -- get behind the wheel. This is the time to check the oil level as the engine is up to temperature. I will add if the level is low by an appreciable amount i'd be inclined to walk. If the seller can't be bothered to check and top up the oil level before putting the car up for sale what about all the other services the car has claimed to have had done.
After the oil level check drive the car over the same 15 mile test route and drive it pretty much the same way although since the car is unknown to you you can dial back on the hard acceleration test. You don't want to let the car get away from you and wrap it around a telephone pole.
And with the engine/transmission now up to temperature you do the k-turn to once again see how the transmission reacts to repeated/rapid changes in direction.
During your test drive there is no benefit to doing the clutch slippage test again. But you can certainly pay attention to if the shift lever pops out of gear or even feels like it wants to.
The cold start idle time and the test ride and then test drive time serve to -- among other things -- have the engine run nearly an hour. This gets the engine and drive train up to operating temperature.
Leaks are more active when things are warm.
Also, it gives the engine controller time to run through its readiness monitor checks. If it finds a problem it will turn on the CEL and log an error code.
(A sophisticated used car buyer will have an OBD2 code reader and after the test drive while the engine is still running using the OBD2 tool query the engine controller for any active/pending/permanent error codes, and the status of the readiness monitors. Now in some cases not all readiness monitors are set to complete. This can be due to the test ride/drive not adhering to the drive cycle most conducive to getting the engine controller through its readiness monitor test phase.)
After your 15 mile test drive at the starting point if you still like the car confirm all systems work. From the head lights to the tail lights. From the horn to the back up camera (if fitted). The A/C. Check all the controls. The wipers. Everything. Might mention at this time you keep an eye out for any fluid leaks. And any odors. One should not smell gasoline or anti-freeze.
Put top down and verify it folds/lays down correctly. Then put the top up and make sure it comes unfolds and extends/positions correctly.
At this point if you still like the car and believe you can buy it for a good price -- based on your market research -- it is good idea to arrange to have the car given a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a tech who is qualified to evaluate the car. A dealer tech can be used. These guys evaluate trade ins all the time.
This gets the car in the air so a check can be made for any leak sign. At the same time a check can be made for any signs of damage or damage repair.
Really though a PPI can be hard to schedule and the seller may not want his car go out for a PPI. And a PPI can run several hundred dollars. And last but not least I prefer to do my own PPI and do it well enough to know if the car checks out it is good to go.
You want to really experience the car in its natural state: engine running and on the road. All cars generally look good on the lot. But it is how they look and run and feel and sound and smell on the road, or after being on the road, that really matters.
Be aware and adjust your price accordingly if the car needs some attention. Unless the seller can supply paper work the services are current or when they’ll next be due on miles or time budget for various services that are due. But a full service will not not make a piece of junk like new.
As I touched upon above, tires should be in good condition but if not if the tires are worn unevenly budget for an alignment assuming wear is not severe enough to suspect the car's bent. In this case you don't want an alignment you want to walk away from the car.
Or if the clutch test finds the clutch slipping then you need to budget for a new clutch. Note this may require a flywheel be resurfaced but if the clutch slips this can be due to abuse/misuse and the flywheel may need replacement.
Of course any work post purchase you feel the car requires will need you to adjust your offer accordingly.
Remember these things: Price is not fact only an opinion. And there is always another car. If you find something negative about this car don't feel you have to buy it. There is another car out there you'll like just as much if not more than this one and it won't have any negatives.
The above is not the final word on the subject of used car check out. But it is better than nothing.
I'll add that the time to fall in love with a used car is after you buy it not before. You want to be very sure you are not looking at the car through rose colored lenses. You want to maintain a high degree of skepticism with this getting less and less as you proceed to check out the car.