Buying a used car can be a minefield. Do you go for a “sold new” in New Zealand example, or pick your way through used Japanese imports. Whatever, here are a few words of advice to help you through the buying process.
1. Stick to a budget.
Not for just the cost of the car – but for the registration, insurance, and running costs. If you need a loan, factor in the repayments, too.
2. Do your research
Have a good look at what’s out there before deciding. Check out prices online and in the newspaper. If a popular make is selling for around $5000, be wary of one going for $2000. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Regardless of price, have the car thoroughly inspected by a Motor Trade Association garage.
3. Find the right car
If you have three pre-school children and a big dog, a three-door hatchback is probably not your best bet. Go window shopping to find the make, model, that suits your needs. Narrow down your choices and do your homework. Does one have better fuel economy over another? Is the car you quite like about to be superceded by an all-new model? If so, you might try and drive down the asking price.
4. Phone the seller
Ask lots of questions. How long have they had the car? Why are they selling it? Has it ever been damaged? What condition is it in? Does the stereo work? Does it leak? What’s the paint like? How about the tyres, brakes? Did it easily pass the last Warrant of Fitness? Does it start first every time?
5. Looking at the car
If it’s a private sale, don’t arrange to meet the seller in a car park – always go to their home address. Check that the home address is the same as the one on the registration certificate. Take a printout or copy of the seller’s advertisement with you to check that details like the mileage is accurate. Always insist that you want it inspected. If the seller is reluctant, walk away.
6. Check the car’s history
The seller might seem to be genuine, but check the car’s history anyway. Make sure it’s not stolen, stuck with an outstanding loan, or even a previous write-off. Get the car’s VIN number and check when it was first registered. It’s a simple step that could save you a lot of money and problems.
7. Test drive the car
Before driving off, turn the steering wheel from lock to lock to make sure there is no screeching, banging, or knocking. Test the handbrake: pull it on then gently try to drive off – it should hold the car back. Listen for strange noises from the engine, and don’t let the seller distract you by talking or turning up the radio. Drive on as many different roads surfaces as possible. Use all the gears and check the gear change is slick and smooth?- make sure the clutch pedal ‘bites’ between the top and middle of the pedal’s travel. In an automatic, make sure the change-ups are not jerky.
8. Checking the car
Best of all, have a mechanic or garage thoroughly check it out and ask for a written report. If that’s not possible, follow the “golden rules” at the bottom of this page.
9. Negotiating the price
Make a list of any faults found with the car, or any work that might need doing, and calculate how much this could add to the price.?From this position, negotiate the price with the seller.?Ask the seller what their best price is, make a lower offer and then say nothing. They can only either turn you down, accept your offer or name another price closer to yours.
10. Paperwork and payment
Make sure all the paperwork is in order, and that you have original versions (never photocopies) of everything – registration papers, service history and logbook. If you’re making a payment or even just a deposit, get a receipt and make sure the seller’s full details are on it.
* Always look at the car in full daylight, never in the dark or in rain that could conceal body marks, dents, rust and other defects.
* Look under the interior carpet for rust and signs – such as welding marks – which may show the car has been in a crash.
* Lift the bonnet and look for signs of oil leaks. Use the dipstick to check the amount of oil. If the level is low, the owner hasn’t been looking after the car properly.
* Look around the oil filler cap for a white milky-like substance – this is an indication of a damaged head gasket. Make sure the tyres are in good condition. Check the gaps between the body panels are equal – if they’re not, the car may have been in a crash.
* Make sure the seatbelts work correctly, the steering wheel and dashboard are bolted on correctly, the front seats move properly and all switches work.
* Start the car with a cold engine, which will make is easier to reveal problems like poor starting or too much exhaust smoke
* Look along the length of the car. Both front wheels should be directly in front of the rear ones – if they’re not, it could mean the car has been in a crash and ended up with a slightly twisted or ‘crabbed’ chassis. Many Japanese used imports have had crash damage repaired before being sold in New Zealand.