Buying a used car is always riddled with unknowns. Is the car priced right? Is the seller being honest about previous ownership and servicing? With so many unknowns, it’s useful to go in with as much information as possible. Ultimately, you’ll be deciding based on the information given to you and by testing the car and seeing it run in real life. Here are 5 important things to consider before you slap your hard-earned money on the table.
1. Check the Car’s history. Thoroughly.
Unfortunately, many used cars are on the market because they’re faulty or near the end. And that’s all fine if you’re a mechanic and have plenty of time on your hands. But for the majority of us, buying a used car means parting with a lot of money and trusting that the owner is being truthful about the vehicle’s history. Checking the car’s history is important for several reasons. The main reason is to check there haven’t been any missed services, accidents, or major problems in the past. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Ask why the car is being sold – often it’ll be because they’re wanting an upgrade or a lifestyle change. Don’t be afraid to delve a little deeper and ask what the issues are.
- Ask how many owners the car has had. The more previous owners, the less likely you are to get a full picture of how the car has been treated. Unlike at a dealership, where the previous owners are well documented, private sellers will often claim to be the only owner, when in fact there have been many.
- Ask for the service history. This can include previous servicing documents – use these to garner an idea of how the car has been cared for in the past. Check the dates on the documents and glance over what the services were targeting. For example, was any major work done, and why?
- Ask if the car has been in any accidents? This is crucial to see if there might be any structural or cosmetic issues that might come back to haunt you down the track. A wheel realignment, for example, might be an indication of a previous collision.
2. Is it registered?
If the answer is no, then unless you’re in love with the car, you may want to reconsider. While there’s no harm in giving it a once over, taking it for a test drive can be both risky and illegal unless you have the correct permit. Be cautious when looking at unregistered cars. The process to re-register a car can be arduous and costly if you’re not prepared and the car is in bad shape. It’s always a good idea to check online to see if the car’s already been written off – you’ll be surprised at what you find on the private market.
3. Check under the bonnet
Turn the car on, and listen to the engine. With the car in park, open the hood and take a look at the moving parts, check the oil, coolant, and power steering fluids. Anything that looks suspicious should be noted and brought to the attention of the seller. Sometimes they may not be aware of an issue in the first place. Check the oil levels and underneath the car for evidence of leaks.
4. Check the battery and electrics
While the bonnet is open, examine the battery and its connections. Look out for eroded terminals and take note of the year of manufacture. Old batteries eventually give out so consider that when eyeing off the final price. While the car’s still running – check everything electrical. From the back brake lights to the high beams, air-conditioning, and infotainment system – make sure everything is working. If something’s kaput, start a list to estimate the cost of repair. This list can give you an idea of whether you’ll be taking the risk or not. Be prepared to negotiate and use any faults to back up your price. Often used cars will have odd quirks – the previous owner might be cut out to tolerate or deal with them – you may not be.
5. Take it for a test drive
Last, but not least: take the car for a spin. Try to simulate different driving conditions to get an idea of how it copes in different conditions. Listen carefully as you accelerate – often, you can feel whether a car is healthy or not. Before you finish, test the brakes for their responsiveness. It’s important to feel safe, so make sure you take note of any issues as they come up. If the owner is unhappy about you taking the car for a drive, this should be a warning sign. If you’re new to the market or don’t know what to look out for, drop by Used Cars Perth and discover how you can make your buying experience as smooth as possible.