Buying a used car can be a daunting challenge for most first-time car owners.
On the one hand, buyers stand a chance of obtaining a good car at bargain prices, sometimes costing only a fraction of what they did when new, but on the other hand, buying a substandard vehicle can mean a plethora of problems down the line, and not to mention, a frustrating ownership experience.
Choosing the right vehicle is even harder if the prospective buyer has little or no knowledge about cars. One must think there is little to no chance of finding any faults with a vehicle in cases like these.
Nevertheless, even if you have limited or no experience buying a used car, these five simple tips will at least give you a better idea of what to look out for when buying used.
Always take your time and inspect the exterior of any used vehicle before committing to a deal. Small scuffs and tired (less shiny) paint are inevitable after a few years and can be remedied to a certain extent by a good detailing operation, however, issues that are more pertinent, are resprayed panels that can sometimes appear shinier than other parts of the car. These are clear indicators that the car has been resprayed and or mended prior.
The second indicator of a shady bodywork is the panel gaps between the main components of the body. Now, you do not necessarily need any specialist expertise for this, just a keen eye to pay close attention to the gaps between doors, the bonnet, and the boot. Irregular panel gaps are other indicators that suggest a collision has previously occurred and that repairs have taken place.
The interior is another good indicator of the condition and usage of any car. Firstly, pay close attention to the fabric or leather seating, lookout for tears (if finished in fabric) or excessive scuffs or creases in the case of a leather interior. This normally is a good indicator of how the previous owner cared for the car. Also pay close attention to any stains in the seats.
Play around with all the knobs and buttons. Operate the door handles, parking brake, and toggle the controls for the indicators, air-conditioning, and power windows – these also help in determining if the car was used properly by the previous owner.
Now, we don’t need to get too technical with the engine. Simply open the hood and have a good look at the general condition of the engine. Look for traces of oil around the engine; and if something looks fishy, ask why.
Notwithstanding, most used car dealers will normally give the engine a thorough clean, washing away any traces of grease and dirt; at the very least, request to look at the oil level and condition with the engine dipstick. A general rule of thumb is – the lighter the colour (more translucent) the oil sample is, the better its health, if it looks like black coffee – this might not be a very good sign.
4. Check The Paperwork
This brings us to quite possibly, the most important tip when buying a used car. Check the paperwork! These include the Vehicle Registration Card, Service Booklet and/or Service Receipts if the car’s been serviced outside manufacturer channels. Cross-reference the most recent repairs or services with the mileage of the car.
It is important to note that a higher-mileage car doesn’t necessarily mean more problems; if the vehicle has been cared for properly (and has the paperwork to back it up), it will work as it should for years to come. To quote a personal experience, I previously owned a 27-year old BMW 5 Series with over 260,000 km mileage, and because the car was maintained decently by its former owner, it never broke down and proved itself to be a reliable workhorse.
5. Always test drive the car
Now if the proof is in the pudding, request for a test drive before you commit to any purchase. Here, the main emphasis is to start the car from a cold start (meaning the car hasn’t been started for circa four hours or more) and listen carefully for noises/squeaks as the vehicle warms up. Check if the car idles properly and revs cleanly if you prod the accelerator pedal.
Remember to check the air-conditioning system, and make sure there are no warning lights displayed before/after the car warms up. Play around with the electronics, and make sure everything works.
Lastly, drive around and try to listen for any rattling noises or squeaks once the car is in motion, if possible, drive the car over a few speed bumps to ascertain its comfort levels and make sure nothing is loose within the cabin.
Finally, check if the vehicle steers straight and true and the brakes work nicely. A rule of thumb is the brakes must never feel squishy, or require you to push the pedal all the way down before the car starts to slow down.
In addition to the above measures when trying to find a good used vehicle, make sure you know these simple steps to arm yourself against scammers; cases such as these are more rampant than ever.
One effective way of protecting yourself from unscrupulous sellers or used car dealers with a poor reputation is to look out for the Trusted Dealer tag on a Carlist.my classifieds advertisement. A little green thumb on seller information field points out that the dealer is genuine, with a good history of providing good customer service and support.
If you lack experience in acquiring and maintaining a used vehicle, we also recommend you opt to warranty your prospective vehicle with an aftermarket warranty (assuming the manufacturer warranty has elapsed) from providers such as MyOpal.
An aftermarket warranty provider will act both as an impartial third party who can evaluate your prospective vehicle, maintain the vehicle, and offer a comprehensive warranty for extended peace of mind, should something go wrong with your car.