Tuesday, June 10, 2014

1998 Audi A4 1.8t: Operation Daily Driver

When on the market for a new daily driver, there are very few things that you actually need to bear in mind. First, and most importantly, verify its title status (Find out if it's a salvage title.) Now, that doesn't mean don't buy the car if it happens to hold a salvaged title, it just means "know exactly what you're getting into", before anything else.

As a potential daily drivable car, most will want something with four doors, four cylinders, an automatic transmission, and air conditioning. That is all. As long as the car meets those criteria, most people will be content with their purchase.

Personally, I prefer something with a little more substance than your run-of-the-mill econobox, as I am what some would call, a driver. So my choice this time around was a 1998 Audi A4 1.8t Quattro. Once again, I've found myself in a 4 cylinder, all wheel drive, turbo powered beauty.

With just over 190k miles on the clock and 16 years of use, I couldn't expect perfection. I could, however, do plenty of homework and recon before pulling the trigger on the purchase.  In California, the seller of the car in a private party transaction is legally responsible to provide a smog done within 90 days of the sale date. Keep that in mind as you participate in the Q&A portion of the purchase process.

When shopping online or even at a used car dealer, you should ask three things of the seller; what is its vin number, has it passed smog recently, and is there any paperwork included for its service history. If you get a straightforward and timely response, you're off to a good start.
  You ask for its vin number for the purpose of doing a vehicle history report (I prefer Autocheck), which is an excellent pre-emptive strike against dishonest salespersons or sketchy individuals. Remember that Carfax and Autocheck get their information from insurance agencies that have reported accidents to DMV, so not all accidents or service history will be available through either source. Again, it's just a great place to start.
The Audi I got passed smog with flying colors, had a clean vehicle history, and the owner had a four inch thick file on the car from day one. Things were looking good at that point. The only issues with the car that he knew of were made clear upfront, and I confirmed as soon as I took it out for a spin. (It needed a new clutch soon) After driving the car and getting it smogged, I was ready to make the purchase.
After I bought it, there were a few of things that needed to be addressed posthaste. The clutch was number one on the list, but the second issue I failed to see until after I went over the first speed bump; the front shocks and struts. If there is an audible bump or clunk when going through a pothole or over a speed bump, you know that there must be something going on with the suspension. Luckily for me, I can't stand the way it looks on the factory suspension, so I planned on replacing it with full coilovers anyway. As some would say, "it needs moar low".
Normally, I would never suggest putting any significant amount of money into a car with so many miles, but this one had been so well maintained, there's no doubt in my mind that it has plenty of life left in it. Unfortunately for us, theres no such thing as a used-car-crystal ball, so inevitably we will unwillingly be spending money on things we couldn't anticipate happening. Pesky little things like getting stuck with a bad turbo. Which is exactly what happened to me. So instead of having the advertised 150 hp at the crank, this bad boy had closer to 100 hp with a heavy AWD system and an itty bitty 1.8L mill pushing it around. To put things in perspective, it would've lost a drag race against a Camry.
The rest of the car is fantastic with Bose sound, heated seats, CD changer, and the rest looked like new. (It still even had that "new car smell" with 190k miles) All in all, the only extra costs incurred were the clutch ($275), the turbo ($350), and the suspension, which I don't really count as I planned on replacing it anyway.

I will keep updating the car with pictures as the work gets done. If you have any questions in regards to buying a used car, come on down to Wheels and Deals! We will do everything we can to help you find parts, get vehicle history reports, and even help you sell your old ride! You can give us a call anytime, and we're more than happy to lend a helping hand.

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