In manual steering equipped Cruisers, check for gear oil in the steering box by removing the breather vent located on the top. If there is none, the pitman-arm seal has failed and the bearings are probably almost gone. If there is grease in the steering box, the seal has failed, and the owner has at least tried to extend the life of the steering box. It may be salvagable, but pulling the pitman arm to replace the seal will require a very stout puller and possibly a little heat from an oxy-acetelyne torch.
Have someone rock the steering wheel back and forth through a 90 degree arc while you inxpect the steering box and centre arm (on 40's-55's) The centre arm should rotate with no sign of "wobbling" If the steering tends to "stay where it's left" while driving rather than returning to centre, the seller has probably cranked up the centre arm to try to hide slop.
Check the ball joints with a pair of water-pump pliers. Squeeze the ball joint from the top and bottom (taking care not to put pressure on grease nipples, if present) if it "compresses," it is worn out. Replacing worn tie-rod ends is relatively easy, but ensure that there's only play in the ball joint and not in the threads between the rod and the end. This will require replacing the rods themselves.