Best tools you need to quickly evaluate a used car

Best tools you need to quickly evaluate a used car

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It wasn't long ago that the 50,000-mile mark separated a good used car from one that had been excessively chewed on. Now, who needs to roll back an odometer? Sam Fiorani, VP of global vehicle forecasting at Auto Forecast Solutions, said, "The quality of vehicles has improved so much that a 150,000-mile Toyota Camry brings serious money." His assessment is no hyperbole, either, as vehicles with six figures on the odometer sold for record prices in June, according to Edmunds.

Buying a used car is still a minefield, though, especially in these times of high demand. Ideally, when you've found a dealer or a private seller with a car you want at the price you want, you know what to look for. To help with that undertaking, we've put together a vehicle checkup kit to help diagnose whether you're looking at a treat or a trap.

The list:

Safety glasses and gloves: Yes, you're going to look like an automotive tech when you put these on, especially when wearing an outfit you don't mind getting dirty. And yes, this could get a raised eyebrow or two from the seller. None of that matters. These items are indispensable. You will laud those glasses the first time fluid splashes onto your face or a flake of frame rust falls into your eyelashes.


When you want to give a chassis component or a tire a shake, mechanics’ gloves will keep your hands happy. But we also recommend plain-colored disposable exam gloves or even dishwashing gloves in a light color. Anything that isn't black. When you dip a gloved finger into fluid reservoirs or scrape the underside of the oil filler cap, you need to know what color the fluid is. These gloves are also kind to the seller and the car; when you put on the gloves and lean on the fenders to check suspension action – before touching anything under the hood – you won't leave handprints on the paint.

Napkins or paper towels: Every generation of my family turned their glove compartments into fast food napkin dispensers. I was programmed to do the same, so I always have something to wipe up spills. When inspecting a car that still has dipsticks, you'll need a swab to clear them with. These are also good to clear engine grubbiness off parts so you can see component numbers or specs.