Hi again. I have found a Challenger that interests me. It's a 2014 SRT8 with automatic transmission and about 41k miles. It's a Carfax one owner personal vehicle with decent service records. All I get in terms of warranty is 30 days/1000 miles from the dealership. What should I be on the lookout for? What are the potential big money problems that could arise? Thanks for your input.
What to be on the look out for? Everything. While 41K miles isn't that many any number of things can wear out or more likely fail.
Fortunately not that often. But still you want to be sure before you buy the car it is in good condition and ideally has no issues. That it might develop one (or more) issues after you buy it you can't do much about that other than of course if available an extended warranty (service) contract.
Best advice I can offer is give the car a thorough used car check out.
Visit the car cold. Open the hood and check the oil level. You want to see it at some acceptable level, not too low not too full and not too black and not smelling to foul.
Check other vital fluids, too. Really if you spot the oil level low, or other vital fluids low a seller that couldn't be bothered to at least bring these up to spec is not someone I want to buy a used car from.
Check the hood (and trunk) hinge fasteners for any signs of wrenching. Look for this at the hardware that holds the front fenders to the car. Check the fastners that hold the radiator supports and radiator hardware for any signs of wrenching.
In the car turn off the A/C -- you check this later -- then verify the warning lights all come on and all go off when or very shortly after the engine starts.
Start the engine and let it idle. Let the engine idle while you walk around the car looking at body panel gaps/fits, paint, tires, wheels, brakes.
'course, the engine should behave normally. If it doesn't my SOP is I'm not looking for a project car so I walk.
A good portion of the check out involves first experiencing the car on the road as a passenger with the driver driving the car as you intend to drive it, withiin reason. The route should be around 15 miles long. There's no need to try to verify the 0 to 60mph time nor the top speed but you do want the driver to once the engine is up to temperature hard accelerate the car from a slow roll -- mainly to avoid subjecting the drive train to unnecessary stress/shock -- up to some reasonable speed just to confirm the engine pulls strongly from near idle to red line then afterwards shows no signs of any problems.
With the transmission cold have the driver execute a K-turn to ensure the transmission can handle repeated changes of direction with no problems.
Pay attention to the how the car drives, rides, handles, brakes, accelerates, shifts, etc. A reasonably hard braking event with the driver's hands loose on the wheel should have the car slowing in a straight line.
Under way with the driver's hands again very loose on the wheel the car should track straight. However road surfaces can make an otherwise good car wander a bit.
Back at the starting place switch seats and drive the car over the same route the same way.
At some point you do the K-turn to confirm the transmission up to temperature can handle repeated changes in direction.
I have to stress this: You must experience the car as you intend to use it.
The idle period after cold start followed by the test ride then test drive has the engine running about an hour. This gives the engine controller time to run through most if not all readiness monitor checks and a dark CEL is a good sign the engine controller found nothing amiss. (Ideally you should check for readiness monitors set to complete but if the car is driven too aggressively the engine controller may not be able to run through all readiness monitor tests.)
The hour long run time gets everything up to temperature and leaks are more likely to show up with things up to temperature.
Back at the startinig place then you check all the various systems: A/C, heater, wipers, all ilghts, etc.
I'm naturally suspicious so I don't like it when I find anything really not right. Even a burned out headlight or tail light suggests to me maybe wiring problems, which can suggest mice or water damage or bad accident repair. My point is over the years I've had a few tail lights, brake lights, indicator lights go out -- but fortunately no headlights -- and I always replaced these in short order.
Try to learn what services are up to date and what are due. For those due factor the cost into your offer.
Check tire condition. I like to see factory sanctioned tires on cars. I'm not a fan of off brand, discount tires, or tires that are not the proper size. (Years ago my Dad managed a tire store and I'm kind of a nut about tires.)
If tires are worn budget for new tires and an alignment. If the tires are worn very unevenly this could be due to a bent car, a car not repaired correctly. I really don't like to see unevenly worn tires. 'course, if the tires are really new they'll likely not show any wear but you can still feel the tire tread blocks for any signs of feathering, scrubbing. This may not be a good sign. (OTOH, a seller might be ok replacing worn tires but less ok paying for an alignment. I have had front tires manifest feathering and scrubbing sign -- and even tire howl on the road -- from relatively minor front end alignment out of adjustment.)
Check brake rotors for excessive wear. A 1mm lip around the outer rim of the rotor and with some designs also at the inner diameter can be a sign the rotor is near worn out. Look for heat cracks, scoring, any real signs of rotor problems.
Brake pad thickness is harder to see/judge but if you bring along a mirror on a stick and good flashlight often you can peek at bottom of the pads.
If possible after your check out it is a good idea to get the car in the air. Many leaks or other issues are more visible from under the car.
Not a full coverage but enough to get you going.
Remember price is not factor only an opinion.
If you find something not right with the car walk away. There is always another car.