INTERIOR (from Chapter 3: Checking Out the Beast)

    You will also want to visually check out the interior. The front seats, the back seats, the headliner, the carpet, everything should look in order. Is the dash cracked? They are expensive to replace, so you can either live with it or do what I do and cover it up with a dash saver. They cost about 80 bucks. Put it down on your checklist.

    Even though the seller told you the mileage over the phone, check it now. I've had plenty of people tell me they have 60,000 miles on their car and when I look it reads 69,900 miles. This is an easy way for people to exaggerate. What's another 9,900 miles? Keep in mind that if they exaggerate about the mileage, they'll be exaggerating about everything else. Believe what they say accordingly.
Check to see if the owner's manual is in the glove box. If it's not, ask if they have it. It's important to have the owner's manual so you can acquaint yourself with the car and learn about the maintenance schedule, oil recommendations, etc. If they don't have one, then put down $25.00 for the cost of a replacement on your checklist.

    How does the driver's seat look? This will be the seat with the most wear. Is it torn or cracked? You can either live with it or do the seat-cover thing. Put it down on your checklist. Keep in mind while you're looking at all this, everything should be in agreement with the odometer. If the car has 60,000 miles on it, then the interior should look like a car that has been driven 60,000 miles, not 160,000. If there seems to be extreme wear, like worn pedal pads on a low mileage car, then suspect odometer tampering. If the odometer doesn't run over 100,000 miles, then it could have turned over. Ask the seller. If he claims that it has not turned over, but your eyes tell you differently, then believe your eyes and assume that they are not telling the truth.

    Check each of the crank-up windows and make sure they are working properly. If the car has power windows, then check each window from the master control and at each door as well. And don't be embarrassed about it. You wouldn't want to sell your car to someone without him first checking everything, would you? Make sure all doors lock and unlock manually and with the key. Ditto for power door locks.

    Don't forget to check the heater in the summer and the air-conditioner in the winter. Also check the following: emergency brakes, horn, headlights (both high and low beam), turn signals, four-ways, brake lights, back-up lights, dome light, dash lights, windshield washer and wipers, and the radio. If the car is a convertible, whether it's manual or power, you'll want to check this too. Check any other power options, such as power seats, antenna, tilt steering, etc., and make notes accordingly.

    Remember, if the car has something not working right, like a power window, you'll need to call the dealer to get a phone estimate for what the maximum cost would be to fix it. Make sure you do this before you make an offer to purchase. Don't disregard something that the seller may claim as trivial. You may be in shock when you find out what a new power window unit costs for a car these days.