i am student looking to buy a 1998 mitsubishi mirage for my commute. It has about 120k miles. I dont know too much about cars but when I went to look at the car, I found that the engine looked like it had oil and a little bit of dirt on it which was wiped away. And also when I looked underneath the car I noticed dirt and oil clumped everywhere. Im assuming this is from a previous oil leak that wasnt cleaned properly. As I was inspecting the bottom a bit more for any leaks, I found a couple wet spots but it wasnt actually dripping. So I am guessing the owner had the leak fixed.
Thats pretty much as detailed as I can describe it because I dont know the actual parts I saw the wetness underneath the car.
my question is, from your experience, is this wetness a major problem that will cost an arm and a leg to fix or is it something minor that would not be much to fix (i.E. Couple hundred dollars)
I would ask to take the car to an independent shop to have it inspected. The cost of that inspection could save you a lot of heartache or it could identify a bargain. The brakes, suspension, and steering should also be checked. A thorough inspection will take about an hour. If the owner is not willing to let you do that, let him keep the car and whatever he's hiding.
All engines seep a little oil and there's often some fumes that condense on the engine, then dirt sticks to it. What you don't want to buy is something with a major leak meaning something very time-consuming to take apart to fix. If leaks were easy to fix, the current owner would have done it.
Also look at those oil stains, then look at them again when there's more miles on the car. If you can see a definite difference after just ten miles, you have a significant leak. If you see any spots in the ground, that is also significant.
Those stains can be misleading too. Sometimes the oil will "pool" in one spot on the engine or on the frame cross member. If it collects there it can look worse than it really is, but almost always there will be dripping associated with that.