I just spent every day, about 6 hours a day, for the last two weeks looking into tips and tricks for buying a used car, specifically a Lancer Evolution. The following is compiled from about 12 different sites suggestions and '10 steps to test driving' and stuff. Hopefully it helps.
When buying any used car, use this check list:
Check the radio at a stop and then at 70mph. Make sure the speakers aren't blown, it's loud enough for you, the CD player doesn't skip, etc. (Bring a CD/casette/8-track with you to test this. The dealer or seller won't have one. Especially if the system is busted.)
Make sure you get at least 2 keys.
When is the next scheduled maintenance and how much will it cost?
Does the car burn oil? (The oil should be black/oil-colored, not white.)
Make sure the trunk is big enough for you, at least two bodies in size is optimum
Verify all locks, lights, and wipers (and all
wiper speeds) work. That all seats are comfortable and the adjustment gear isn't frozen or loose.
Take off fast in the car, as fast as you (safely) can. Do you like it, does it make weird noises?
Brake hard and fast, does the car shimmy or shake or spin out? (good idea to check parking brake this way too.)
Check that the parking brake will hold the car on the steepest hill you can find.
See how it corners and if it is a manual, shift while going up hill to see how it performs.
Park it in the kind of space you'll be parking in every day. If you can't parallel park it, or it scares you to do so and you need to do that every day it's probably not the right car for you.
Back into a parking place, this is one of the best ways to check mirrors, blindspots, and how natural the car feels for you.
Double-check by making a few different lane changes, to both sides and at a variety of speeds.
Verify that all vents, registers, knobs, buttons, and switches work and do what they say they do. You won't find out your rear-window defrost doesn't work until it snows, or freezes, but the rest of the stuff can be just as important and is easier to check. (I suppose you could get a slushy or something from 7-Eleven and put it on the rear window?
Check the body closely, examine the paint job, especially behind the license plates, inside the fenders, under the hood and any frame or body seams. A flash light is really good for finding any subtle dents or signs of past body work.
Sit in the back seat, if you have kids or car pool regularly it is important that your passengers are actually comfortable.
merge out into traffic from a complete stop. The car should react like you expect it will. If it merges slower than you think it will that's a consideration.
Also, drive at freeway/highway speeds for at least 5 minutes without looking at the speedometer. Then estimate how fast you're going and check it. Some cars feel like they're moving faster than they really are, others feel like they're moving slower than they really are. Either way could lead to traffic tickets and can make the difference between two cars that you otherwise like both of.
Check the spare tire, jack and handle. It is good if they exist and are not overly worn.
Does the engine look clean? Does it smell clean when it is off? (No burnt oil or gasoline smell?)
If you're a smoker, hold a cigarette in your hands like you normally would when you're driving down the road. Some cars are really cramped and it doesn't matter how nice the interior of the car looks if you're going to burn the floor mats and the console because every time you turn the wheel or try to ash out the window the tip of your cigarette burns something or gets knocked off. Tell the sales person you're not going to light it. So they don't have a major stroke first.:P
Test the cruise control if one is equipped, does it stay within 2-5 mph up and down even steep hills above 30mph?
Find a nice level, straight, flat spot and take your hands off the wheel at ~30mph. Does the car drift or pull. The alignment or tire balance could be off.
Check the trunk to backseat passthrough if there is one. In 2 years when you want to take a dresser home from IKEA you'll hate yourself for not talking the salesman down a few bucks if yours is frozen or creates a freakishly small passthrough.
How much are tabs and license? I paid $1500 for a car once and the DMV tried to nail me for $535, because I got a good deal on the car and it was valued at ~6k.
Does the car have an owner's manual? (Evo's especially are bad at this for some reason. Who keeps their old owner's manual for a car they sold?!?)
Set the alarm, if one is equipped, then set it off. Nothing will make you feel as stupid as not recognizing the sound of your own alarm, or of setting it for two weeks and then finding out it doesn't actually go off no matter what you do to the car. Additionally, make sure it's not too sensitive (I set one off yesterday in a minivan just by getting too close with my exhaust pipe).
Evo specific stuff:
Ask how old the tires, brakes, and clutch are. Especially if they're stock. The stock ones wear out after 20,000 miles and that can be a big expense after you ponyed up for a car.
Slam on the brakes at 70mph, are the rotors warped (brake judder?) Brembos from the dealer are $459 each
Turn the wheel to lock in both directions at slow speed and over speed bumps. Listen for odd noises.
Are the gear changes 'notchy' into 2nd, 3rd and reverse?
Check for clutch slippage (engine RPM goes up in 5th, with not much accelleration)
Check the bumper and grill for chips/scratches (though a new grill is only $12)
On the older Evos (VIII and earlier) check the trunk-lid for paint damage, apparently that is a common place they sustain it.
So yeah, this is stuff I stole from http://www.lancerregister.com/downlo...de%20v1_00.pdf
and from autotrader.com, car&driver, edmunds.com, kbb.com and compiled into one list for myself. The PDF is for European/Japanese cars. But I see a lot of questions in the forums that I think are answered in there. Maybe someone who actually knows something about tuning and Evos could check it and see if it's all bunk or if there are elements that should/could be added to the FAQ's here?
The one thing I wish I'd done is, instead of paying 15k for the only Evo I could find within 120miles, is if I'd bought one of those show cars for $8000 with custom body kits, mods, and nitrous bottles (they all seem to cost $8000 and have bottles of nitrous in the back that have never been hooked up.) They also have low mileage on them, and perfect bodies due to being show cars for display purposes only. The $7000 I would have saved could have been used to replace the body kit if I didn't like it, buy a new engine, or just fly it out here, let alone pay for a nice, fun, 3-5 day road trip to go get it.
This is the second one I've seen like this in the last 6 months: 2003 MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION for sale in California | BEVERLY HILLS Used Cars Classifieds at LemonFree.com