How to Buy a Used Vehicle

We’ve seen too many customers come to our shop having purchased a vehicle that should have been salvaged instead. Please read further before you start shopping and direct any unanswered questions to a professional mechanic!

We highly recommend taking any used vehicle to an experienced mechanic for an extensive overview BEFORE you purchase it. This will provide you with insight about what repairs and maintenance to expect in the future, and can prevent you from buying something with hidden mechanical problems and rust. We perform extensive overviews and provide a comprehensive estimate to potential buyers, so they can make an informed decision whether or not to purchase a vehicle. If you are traveling to look at a vehicle, do some research work and try to find a specialist in the area. It will be well worth your effort in the long run.

When having the vehicle examined by a professional is not an option, the following two sections explain major things to look for that can help determine if a vintage VW® is worth purchasing or not.

What to look for in the body:

The condition of the body is an important concern not only for aesthetics, but also for safety. Body restoration is usually the most costly repair on a vintage vehicle. Vehicles with a lot of rust or poor body repairs should be avoided–or the cost of the body repair work should be considered in the purchase price. For your safety, comfort, and wallet, especially note the condition of the following:

  • floor pans
  • battery trays
  • rocker panels
  • extensive rust around door jams and window seals

Be aware that bondo and a good paint job can hide a lot of problems. While bondo can be helpful to hide cosmetic blemishes, it is often misused to fill in large structural areas and can be very unsafe. Look for cracking in the paint and run a magnet over suspect areas to identify bondo repairs.

What to look for in the engine compartment:

Examine the engine compartment carefully; its state can tell you a lot about the vehicle. Cooling air comes through the engine compartment on air cooled vehicles. If the compartment is filthy, there is a greater chance that repairs are needed. On water cooled Vanagons, significantly rusty intakes are a bad sign and usually accompany an engine that has been exposed to salt and corrosion. If the intakes still have original paint in good condition, most likely the engine has not been exposed to harsh conditions. When buying a northern vehicle, rust can be significant problem. On all vehicles, look for oil leaks from the engine or transmission–this is usually a sign that service is needed.

If you find something in a potential vehicle you don’t feel confident about, call or email us! We’d be more than happy to advise you as best we can without seeing the vehicle.

An important note about Ebay:

Ebay can be a great place to find Volkswagens. Unfortunately, however, many of the vehicles posted on Ebay are misrepresented. We’d like to think that most of the misrepresentation is accidental—often sellers just don’t accurately know the condition of their vehicle. But intentional or not, we’ve seen enough misrepresented vehicles to caution buyers who are looking on Ebay. We feel the “thrill” of the bid and auction deadlines add urgency to the sale, when the sale is actually something that should be well thought out. We found this link which covers Ebay’s vehicle purchase protection and suggest reviewing it before purchasing a vehicle.