How to Inspect a Vehicle Before Buying

You want to be able to count on the vehicle you buy for your conversion. No one wants to dump their conversion budget into costly repairs. Follow these steps to inspect a vehicle before buying. Never allow a seller to pressure you to rush the inspection. Walk away if a seller objects to an inspection. You’re investing a lot of money into this vehicle, and it is your right to look at it carefully.

Before arriving, ask the seller all about the vehicle history, mileage, past use, and any accidents. Ask for proof of what the seller reports to you (though it may not be available). Consider the mileage, and how any miles you intend to put on the vehicle. Do you feel comfortable with that number? A heavily-used vehicle may not be worth your time going to see.

When evaluating the exterior, the most important things to check are the windshield, tires, and body. In terms of the windshield, make sure there are no cracks. Replacing a school bus windshield will drain your conversion budget, so you’ll want to avoid any suspicious windshields. Next, look carefully at the tires. Make sure the tread in the tires passes the “penny” test (Abe Lincoln’s head should disappear when placed in the tire tread). Look close for signs of age, wear, and dry rot. You do not want to have to replace tires any time soon! In addition, carefully inspect the body of the vehicle for rust and dents. While rust and dents are to be expected on older models, extreme rust is a problem, and dents may conceal bigger problems that may have resulted from an accident.

Next, take a look under the bus at the chassis. The chassis is the backbone of the vehicle. It’s the long, black, rectangular steel frame underneath. This bears a considerable amount of the weight of the vehicle, so it needs to be in good condition. It also can’t really be replaced—if you buy a bus with a bad chassis you bought a bus with a death sentence. So make sure there is no damage and no pieces are bent or rusted. If there is damage to the chassis, that should be a dealbreaker for you.

Your next step is to look under the hood at the engine and transmission. Make sure there is no visible damage to either. Also make sure there are no gritty, black deposits on either. This may be evidence of leaks and other problems.

If all this passes your inspection, turn her on! Listen to the vehicle run. Does is sound smooth? Are there any suspicious sounds? If there are, consider consulting someone more-knowledgeable about the source of the suspicious sound. Take the vehicle for a test drive to feel how it runs. Is it smooth, or shaky and stuttering? While the vehicle is on, check the lights, flashers, and gauges.

If all this looks good, you’re probably looking at a dependable vehicle.

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