motor core

8 Costly Mistakes When Buying Used Motors

Deadly Sins to Avoid When Purchasing a Used Engine

Published April 13, 2018

If you are in the market for a used engine, you might want to read this list first. Many people are guilty of doing one of the following 8 things when looking to buy used motors. If you find yourself falling into one of these traps, chances are you are going to waste some money.

Don’t rush into anything before walking through all of our tips. With a little planning and research, you’ll able to get the right used engine for your needs. Let’s get you back on the road quickly!

#1 – Getting One That Wasn’t Tested

Would you purchase a new car without making sure it runs? Surely not. Shopping for used motors is no different than buying a vehicle; in fact, it is the heart of the car after all.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get a service record about the engine or even a CarFax statement which shows you the mileage as recorded by the DMV. If that information doesn’t seem right, you probably aren’t buying what you think you are.

It happens all the time that a used motor isn’t what it was claimed to be. Customers are often told that the engine has been rebuilt or just broken in, but the reality is that it has over 100,000 miles and is rusted up.

Keep in mind that a “rebuilt” engine is a relative term, so take it with a grain of salt. It should never be used as a way to measure the worth of an engine. Unless you have a completely detailed record describing the service done to the engine, you have no idea if it was rebuilt. For some people, this will simply mean new gaskets where to another person it means new gaskets, crank, bearing, pistons and seals. See the difference?

The other thing to do is make sure the used motors you are looking at have been dyno tested, compression tested, oil pressure tested and has had a cylinder leak down test. The seller should have all this information for you; otherwise, you should walk away from the deal.

#2 – Purchasing Without a Warranty

motor warranty - warranty iconMany people think that because they are purchasing a used motor, that there won’t be a warranty associated with it, but that’s not true. Many sellers offer some sort of guarantee against defects. The length of the warranty itself isn’t as big of a concern as the fact that you get one.

Even if you get a 30-day guarantee on the engine, it gives you the time you need to ensure the motor runs properly once it’s been dropped into the vehicle.

With that said, it’s also important that you find out the exclusions or conditions of the warranty. Some sellers are going to insist on providing a technician or installing the motor themselves. This is for their peace of mind that the engine doesn’t get damaged during the installation.

Make sure you replace timing components, especially on your DOHC and belt drive engines because this is required to validate most warranties.

#3 – Failing to Make Sure it’s Complete

engine missing parts - stripped motorIt’s important that you get proof from the seller about what is coming with the engine. Some sellers will keep parts such as the throttle units or alternators on the engine which is a plus if you need those parts. Others are going to take the parts off.

There is no standard way to handle this across the board, so it’s important to be clear up front.

To do this, simply as for a description of the engine. You can ask these questions:

– Does the used motor include intake and exhaust manifolds?
– Will it come with fuel rails?
– Can I expect to receive the wiring harness?
– How about things such as the oil pan, timing covers and valve covers?

When you are shopping for used motors, you are buying the engine only. This includes the block, internal components and heads. Any other parts that come with it are simply for convenience and not guaranteed to fit, nor will they be covered by your warranty.

That’s because manufacturers use the same block for many years, but the parts change frequently. Your best bet is to transfer the parts from your old motor.

#4 – Buying Without Comparing Prices

When you shop for a vehicle, do you purchase the first one you see or do you research pricing first? Buying used motors should be no different. You are preparing to put out a good chunk of change to get a motor, so you might as well get the best deal.

Ask the seller for a list outlining what is in the package he is offering. Then, get at least one other offer on used motors to compare your pricing and package. You might also be able to score a lower price if you ask for a cash discount.

#5 – Purchasing from Someone that isn’t Legitimate

trouble ahead signsThis seems like a no-brainer, but many people turn over money to sellers that have no reputation in the used motors business. Take the time to confirm your seller is a legitimate dealer of used motors and cars. Look, I am not suggesting that you go on some sort of witch hunt, but the Internet is a great tool for doing your homework.

With all the cases of theft and used parts being sold from cars, it’s important you do your research. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any outstanding complaints. Most companies aren’t going to get away with selling junk motors for long without there being complaints about them online.

#6 – Not Researching Core Charge Fees

It shouldn’t come as a shocker to be hit with a core charge when you place your order. While it’s rarely talked about, it’s something you need to be prepared for. This charge is always refundable, but it might break the bank initially. You’ll find that these charges can range anywhere from $100 all the way up to over $1,000, so there is a lot of room for surprise.

To receive the core charge back, you are going to be required to provide the block and heads intact with no cracks in either.

# 7 – Neglecting to Ask for Shipping Information

tractor trailerYou’ve been quoted a price and you are ready to pay, but did you factor in the shipping charges? Most companies fail to mention what it will cost to get it there, but that can tack on an additional $150-$400 on top of the bill.

Keep in mind that shipping your used motor to a residential address might cost you more than having a business address.

The company you are purchasing from might actually be purchasing from another company themselves. This could cause your engine to come from a state you weren’t prepared to pay shipping from. Not only could it cost more than you think, but you might be waiting some time for delivery.

Follow up with the company to get tracking information on your engine. If they inform you that they don’t have tracking info, be aware that they might never have shipped your engine at all.

#8 – Failing to Keep all the Paperwork

You want to keep any and all paperwork you receive with your used motor. Not only will it protect your warranty but it also helps you if there is a discrepancy after the sale.

In addition, if you ever want to sell the vehicle or motor down the road, you’ll have all the information you need to make the sale.

Quick Tips for Buying Used Motors

When you are shopping for used motors, follow these tips to help you get what you need. This checklist will help you to avoid headaches down the road.

1) Verify that you need an engine to begin with. If the mechanic tells you that you do, it’s always smart to get a second opinion.

2) Collect all the information you need to make the right purchase. This includes the VIN, production date and engine code.

3) Shop for your used motors by calling to various sellers and getting quotes.

4) Try to find an engine with under 75,000 miles. This will have less wear and tear on all the major components.

5) Verify the mileage through a CarFax report.

6) Ask the seller about the history of the motor.

7) Run all the information by your mechanic.

8) Verify warranty info.

9) Settle on a reasonable price with the seller.

10) Have the engine installed by a mechanic if you don’t feel comfortable doing the complicated job.

Warning Regarding Short Block vs. Long Block

When you are shopping used motors, you might be confused regarding the short block and long block engines.

Short Block – This includes the lower section, the crankshaft, engine block plus the connecting rods, pistons, bearings and oil pan.

Long Block – This has everything the short block does, but also includes the cylinder heads, valves, camshafts, valve springs plus possibly new head gaskets.

If you are purchasing a short block, you need to ensure that the parts you take from the old engine are going to fit and are in good condition. If your old motor was destroyed, you need to factor in the cost of the new parts for the rebuild.

Final Say

Buying used motors is a great way to keep your vehicle running when the old motor dies. Sometimes, it is simply a better choice to replace the engine in the car you have now than to purchase a new one.

With that said, there are a lot of ways to get ripped off when shopping for used motors, just like you purchase a car. Be careful and do your homework. A little preparation now can save you boatloads of money down the line.


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Brian Jones
About Brian Jones

I am an ASE Certified Master Tech, but spend more time with my awesome family now than I do on cars. In my spare time, you'll still find me playing with tools, cars and many other "manly" gadgets.

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