When you are looking to buy a used car, your wish list is not very different from that of a new car. This is especially true today when there are so many certified used cars available. Dealers these days have built up a formidable trade in taking used cars in part exchange. Low mileage used cars complete with warranties are common. It seems that you could have the advantages of owning a car that is to all intents and purposes faultless. This could be seen as a major bonus.
In particular you won’t have the hefty price tag of a new vehicle. As a new car will typically lose about 40% of its value in the first year, this makes sound financial sense. Of course not all used cars come with such a warranty and peace of mind. There are some good deals out there. Choose a car such as a march and see what you can find.
Choice is not going to be your problem. But buying a used car can be a bit of a gamble. How do you ensure that the car you are buying is going to be a reliable and safe vehicle? One that will give you many years trouble free motoring?
Looks are Deceiving.
Most cars can be made to look good. A power wash and wax will bring even the most tired bodywork looking shiny and new. It’s amazing what clean windows and wheels will do for a vehicle’s curb appeal. Dealers know this.They wipe the edges of the tires with a shiny coating. The customer sees a shiny new car, and suddenly all practical sense flies out of the window. Do not be this person. Look beyond the image.Get underneath the surface appeal and see what you are buying.
Never inspect a vehicle at night, in bad light or worst of all, in the rain.These can hide a myriad of problems. Instead, take a good look around the car in daylight. Notice if there are any scratches or dents. Beware the car that looks too perfect! Clues to a more colourful history might lie in mismatched panels, and in particular doors that don’t quite align or shut properly. Open and close everything.
Sit in the car. Have a look around the interior. One area that is particularly hard to clean and cover up is the roof lining. Look for telltale signs that might give you some clues to an unloved history. Check the trim and dashboard.Look for the owner’s manual. These can be expensive to replace and will hold valuable information on the upkeep of the car, as well as some more obscure operating details.
What is the condition of the upholstery? If there are seat covers, peel them back and have a look underneath. Take out the floor mats and inspect the carpet. It’s a good idea to check the seat belts come out and retract.
Always take the car for a test drive. A reputable garage will give you trade plates. A private owner may well ask to come with you. If you are not sure what you are looking for, then bring someone along who knows what they are talking about. Don’t just drive the vehicle around the yard. Go for a spin and test the vehicle out on the open road.
Is the driving position comfortable for you? Can you reach the controls easily? Is the steering wheel adjustable? How about the foot pedals? Start the engine. Does it start easily? Hopefully, you’ll be starting it from cold. If you are, you’ll be able to identify any potential problems.
Things to look for when driving
Test the brakes. Does the vehicle pull to one side? It should brake smoothly and quietly. How does the ride feel? If you are not familiar with the car, how does it feel? Is it a bumpy, hard, noisy ride or quiet, soft and smooth? How does the engine sound? You may well be driving this car for a long time to come. Pull over and leave the engine running. You could have a look under the bonnet. Be wary of an engine that has been steam cleaned. This could be a sign that someone is trying to disguise an oil or fluid leak. Get back in the car and move it forward the length of the vehicle. Can you see any obvious signs of oil or fluid on the floor?
Go back to the Paperwork.
If you liked the feel and look of the car, now is the time to check the paperwork. You’ll be looking to see if the mileage on the car matches the documents. These days everything is so automated that it’s easy to check online for a small fee to see if the mileage is correct. Be wary of figures that are too low. On average, a vehicle will travel around 10,000 miles per year. Multiply this by the age of the vehicle to arrive at the likely mileage. A check can also tell you whether the vehicle is subject to outstanding car finance, or has been written off in the past. It will tell you where it was registered and if there have been any plate changes. These are all possible warning signs of an attempt to cover up fraudulent practice.
One key piece of information will be some evidence of service history. These may be stamps in the logbook. They may just be a collection of receipts. These will show how often the vehicle has been serviced and tell you exactly what has been done. Car manufacturers will outline things such as oil and fluid changes. Cars that have a cambelt will need to have this replaced after a certain amount of mileage. Not doing so could spell big engine trouble and cause you extra expense.
To ensure peace of mind you could always arrange for a third party check by a reputable motoring organisation.
Finally, ensure that you are getting a pair of keys with the vehicle. Security measures mean that a new key for your car can be expensive to replace.
At this point it may pay to walk away – allow a small cooling off period. Hopefully, you’ve shopped around, and you know what the value of a comparable vehicle is. What warranty if any is included? What is the best deal that you can get? Beware of any sob stories and emotional excuses for selling the car. This is a business transaction for you. If you are happy with everything, then you have done you best to secure yourself a great little car.