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Used car buying tips

Buying used cars can be trickier than buying new, especially if you’re not a car expert. Follow these simple steps, though, and you’ll emerge with your dream car and not a nightmare on wheels.

Firstly, know your subject. Research the type of car you want to purchase and make yourself aware of the basic facts so that you know what your car should have, as well as any ‘special modifications’ like a worked engine or big wheels will be immediately obvious.

Then it’s down to business. Let’s start with dealing with buying from a private individual. You can ask as many or as few questions as you like, but as a bare minimum ask the following questions.

  • How long have you owned the car?
  • How many owners has the car had?
  • Does the seller actually own the car?
  • Why are you selling it?
  • How many kilometres has it done?
  • Do you have a full service history for the car (log book)?
  • Has it ever been in a crash? Is it garaged?

You are trying to establish a basic history of the car and what kind of life it has had. This will give you an insight into potential problems the car may experience in the future. For example, a high mileage car with many past owners suggests it has had a rough life, where a low mileage car with one owner – even if the car’s ten years old – suggests that person took care of the car.

When to look

As a general rule, buy the newest car with the lowest number of kilometres you can afford. Try to avoid looking at cars on rainy days, because it can hide imperfections in the paint that could indicate previous panel damage.

Take a friend with you, preferably one who knows a bit about cars. If you don’t have any expertise and are still concerned about the condition of the car you’re looking at, consider an independent inspection; various motoring clubs offer mobile inspections that could potentially save you thousands in repairs.

Vehicle checks

If a car has been properly serviced, it should be in reasonable mechanical condition. New cars come with a handbook, with pages that are filled in at each service.
Vehicle inspection reports can help give peace of mind when buying a car privately. However, there are some things that you can look out for yourself – DIY Inspection.

Licensed dealers are obliged to guarantee that no money is owed on the car, it has not been de-registered due to parking fines or previously declared a wreck. If a car turns out to be stolen, the purchase price must be refunded by the dealer.

If buying privately, check with your state transport authority. This will tell you if a car has been reported stolen, written off by an insurance company, there is money owing on it or if the registration has been cancelled due to unpaid fines.