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What Should I Consider Before Buying a Used Car?

I’m pretty sure that question had been asked during your younger years. Those times you wanted independence and having a car meant a lot to you. Regardless, having a reliable car is a dream come true. Ideally, since most cars depreciate fast, buying a used car is the most convenient and affordable way to own a car. It is desirable for someone who wants to pay lower car-related expenses like the cost of insurance, registration, or monthly car loan payments. However, purchasing a second-hand car could be a tedious process and a great source of distress too. Essentially, a well-inspected used car could help solidify your decision.

So, if you have been considering buying a used car, read through this blog and you might pick up relevant points to avoid ending up with a “lemon.”

Check the car history

Set an appointment with the owner and ask to bring the car history file. Most of the owners keep this document for future reference.  In the event that the car history isn’t available, you may ask the following questions:

  •   Has it been serviced? If yes, for what reason? 
  •   How many times has it been serviced?
  •   How long have you had the car?
  •   Has it been paid off? Or still under a loan?
  •   Why are you selling the car?
  •   How many owners has the car had? This question indicates if the car is already been sold several times.
  •   Do you have the title?
  •   When was the last time you registered the car? 
  •   Have you replaced parts?
  •   Where do you usually go?
  •   Has the car been involved in a car accident? If yes, what kind of accident? Where and how was it resolved?
  •   How many miles does the car have?
  •   Is the engine been rebuilt (optional)

These questions are necessary as mostly, used cars are being sold due to (recurring) problems or past accidents.  Don’t settle for less. Investigate if you can.

Don’t be deceived by the looks – check the interiors and exteriors 

The overall value of the car depends on how it looks inside and out.  Therefore, check if the upholstery is still intact.  Ask if it has been changed or not.  Carefully check the paint job and look if there are any rust spots. Ensure that the doors, windows, trunks, open and close freely.  The dashboard warning lights must not stay lit after you’ve started the car.  If it’s still illuminated, this means that there’s a problem with your electrical.  Another ideal part would be the tires – check if they are aligned and not bald.  Further, inspect the spare tire if it’s still useful or not.

Ideally, you must validate the following if working properly:

  •   Stereo
  •   Heater
  •   Air Conditioner
  •   Windshield wiper
  •   Seatbelts are intact
  •   The switches of the windows are working properly
  •   Car alarm works
  •   Hazard lights, headlights, must operate accordingly
  •   Signal lights
  •   Brake lights
  •   Mirrors are intact

Check the engine

This is perhaps the most important part to check when buying a used car.  Secure the integrity of the car by looking for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the car. Usually, you’ll find it in the door jam, engine bay or chassis, and fender. Otherwise, if it’s missing, it only means that the fender has been replaced. Ideally, the engine must be pristine and free from:

  •   Oil leaks
  •   The battery terminals are free from corrosion
  •   The oil dipstick is free of dark, black oil
  •     Unnecessary odors (smells like gas or burnt plastic) while the engine is running. 
  •   Rev the car to check the exhaust pipe emissions.  Blueish smoke means the engine burns oil and black smoke (which was mine before) means excessive oil consumption

Other crucial parts of the engine are the hoses and belts.  Watch out for cracks or anything that looks unusual. 

Go for a test drive

Once you’ve convinced yourself of the car’s history, aesthetics, and engine, take it for a test drive.  Don’t be shy to ask if you can drive it around the area or even on highways.  This way, you’ll get an idea of how the engine runs and how the ride feels.  When testing a car for a drive, secure the following are intact:

  •   Brakes – no vibration from the brake pedal. 
  •   No squeaking or clunking noise when making a turn.

Basically, strange noises are an indication that the car’s rotors need to be replaced or resurfaced – which should be done first-hand.

When buying a used car or anything that has already been used, you must be vigilant and extra observant to ensure you’re buying a desirable one.  I suggest creating a checklist of things to do (or save this article) just so you won’t miss anything crucial. Trust and follow your instincts. For example, if the seller isn’t cooperative with the inspection – don’t entertain your thought anymore. Also, research the car’s current market price and ask your trusted mechanic to accompany you in checking the car.  Most importantly, buy the car from reputable and credible places like certified surplus shops, banks, friends, and relatives.

These guidelines are paramount when buying a used car.  Owning a car – brand new or used – is a luxury, not a misery, so there’s nothing wrong with being extra careful.  It is your hard-earned money, after all. 

For Mechanical or Electrical services, call Rodney Auto Centre at 09 426 5016. You may check out the website as well: www.rodneyautocentre.co.nz

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