Caution: If a car doesn’t have a service history, look for signs that it spontaneously assembled itself after a strong wind blew through a junkyard.
Any Car with a Salvage Title
Insurance companies aren’t in the business of losing money. So it’s a good bet that if a car has been written off as a total loss, it’s because it really was a total loss. If it had been worth fixing, the insurance company would have fixed it.
It’s simple: If a car is so badly damaged that it can’t be fixed to an insurance company’s slight standards, to what standards could it have been fixed? Jethro and Cletus might tell you that “all the damage just buffed out, ” but what they did was sew the front half of a rear-ended BMW 335i to the back half of a nose-crunched Ford Ranger pickup and then get busy with the Bondo. Salvage titles mean trouble.There are exceptions to this—the a href=" " target="_self"Acura NSX/a, for example, which was a notorious tire muncher and could consume a set of rear Yokohamas pulling out of the garage—but for the most part, if a car needs a tire, it should need more than one. So generally speaking (and allowing for the exception of cars originally equipped with staggered sizes front and rear), all four tires should match each other in size, make, and model. /ppBut go shopping for a used ride, and it seems some cars are equipped with tires that aren’t all even the same ishape/i i. /iIt’s one thing to believe in pyramid power, and it’s something else to drive on a tire shaped like a pyramid—especially when it’s matched with a rhombus, a hendecagon, and a trapezium. /ppAnd watch out for the bargain-brand tires that come from a href=" " target="_self"China/a and have names ripped right off the Panda Express menu board. Some have the same tread-wear rating as a chiffon and the grip of a greased beach ball. At least they taste good when served with plum sauce over rice. /p table border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0"x">
Caution: Cheap tires mean the owner was willing to take shortcuts.
Any Car with Brushstrokes in the Paint
House paint is for houses, and car paint is for cars. The moment a car owner forgets that, he’s likely given up on maintaining the rest of the car, too.
There are a few “art cars” floating around out there that name-brand artists have decorated with flourishes at a manufacturer’s behest. The 3.0 CSL that BMW had Alexander Calder decorate back in the early ’70s comes to mind here, and it’s obviously a desirable nugget of history, no matter the brushstrokes. But it’s something altogether different from a car that has had indoor/outdoor latex applied with a thick brush over a mound of Bondo. If a car has been painted with stuff from the Home Depot, it’s possible there are other building materials aboard. Bondo, after all, can be used to sculpt an entire fender.