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Buying a used car: The basic checks


Buying a used car is something that many of us will consider. The current economic climate has put us all in a position where a used vehicle simply makes financial sense as new car pricing has skyrocketed. The problem with a used car lies in the fact that it is, well, used, meaning that someone else may have mistreated the car or improperly maintained it. That means that when you’re on the market for a used car you have to perform certain checks to ensure that you don’t end up with the proverbial lemon. Here are a few things that you need to check.

  • Vehicle history-Ensure that the vehicle that you are looking at has a full service history with the manufacturer or a reputable garage. If the car is still under service plan and manufacturer warranty get the dealership to confirm this and ensure that you have that piece of mind should something go wrong. If there is no service book then the Vehicle Identity Number(VIN) can be used to check with the manufacturer for service history
  • Check for accident damage- If a body panel or the paint on the vehicle doesn’t match or is misaligned in certain areas, it is likely that the vehicle has been in a collision. This may or may not have been severe though so check under the bonnet and the floor section of the boot under the carpet for signs of bending. If you don’t trust a specific cat the VIN number can be used to search for accident damage through previous insurance claims and parts ordered through the dealership either through warranty or from insurance.
  • Basic checks- Have a look at the tyres; uneven wear could point to a suspension problem caused by an accident or mean that the vehicle needs new shocks. When driving the vehicle listen for strange sounds and ensure that the motor feels adequate for its size. If the vehicle is a manual the feel the clutch, if it takes high it may mean that it will need replacing soon. Then shift through the gears and make sure that the car changes consistently and in a smooth fashion. This goes for conventional automatic and dual-clutch gearboxes too.
  • Keep an eye on the temperature gauge-When driving, if the car gets up to temperature well and remains at a consistent level it should be fine. To be absolutely sure, let the car run until the cooling fan comes on which will tell you that all is well.
  • Have the car checked by professionals- Most finance houses have a pre-purchase inspection as a prerequisite for buyers who are financing vehicles. So have the seller either present a proof of inspection or have them send the car for a check-up either at Dekra, the AA or Bosch.
  • Have a look at a few- When buying a car it is good practise to look at several examples within your budget. This will give you an idea of what to look for and help you decide which vehicle is right for you.
  • Do your research- Have a look at internet forums with owners of a particular vehicle, ask questions and get an idea of what you’re in for. Then you can approach a dealer with knowledge which also means that nobody can take advantage of you.
  • Buy from a reputable dealer/person- Make sure that the dealership that you are buying from is legitimate and won’t disappear overnight. In the event of a private deal, make sure that you have all of the particulars of the seller and meet him/her in a public place. Also ensure that you take someone with or notify someone of your whereabouts, there are some unsavoury characters out there.
  • Go with your gut- If something is telling you to walk away, or the deal is “Too good to be true.” then it likely is. We are in a buyer’s market, the right vehicle will come along. Most importantly, be safe out there.

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