If you’re on a tight budget and want to buy a new car, a used one might be the way to go. Second-hand cars can be significantly less expensive than new cars, but you must be careful not to pay more than the vehicle is worth!
To help you obtain a good deal on your used car purchase, we have compiled a quick list of things to check before you begin your used car purchasing journey, as well as what specific things to look out for in any used car you’re interested in.
Table of Contents
Before Buying A Used Car
Well, before you start looking for a used car, there are a few things you have to hash out before you start visiting your local used-car dealerships. Here are some primary things to remember when selecting a used car to look into.
- Have an idea of how much you’re willing to spend on a used car, with a 10 – 20% leeway for any additional repairs or fixes.
- Be sure to cross-reference the value of the car(s) you are considering according to the make and model with a trusted external source.
- Determine what type of car that best suits your needs; are you looking for a regular sedan to take you around the city or an MPV to carry stuff in the boot?
- Safety Rating
- Be sure to determine the car’s overall safety and safety features by checking in with real-life statistics.
- Insurance Costs
- Insurance will vary depending on the model, so get a quote once you’ve narrowed your options.
- Environmental Impact
- If you’re environmentally conscious, look at the car’s fuel consumption and emissions rating online. Generally, the older a vehicle is, the less environmentally friendly it will be.
- Purchase Avenue
- From dealers to auctions and private sales, deciding how you want to buy the car is as essential as the car itself. Do a deep dive into the pros and cons of each purchase option before deciding.
- State/Territory Regulations
- Check your state or territory’s regulations for buying and selling used cars, including how to ensure the car is debt-free.
What To Check When Buying A Used Car
A used car is an investment, so there’s no need to rush into it. Be sure to take your time and check everything about the car, and consider a brief checklist of the following before committing to buying one:
Try to get as much of the vehicle’s history from the current owner as possible. Check that the VIN (vehicle identification number) on the registration papers matches the VIN on the car. While you’re there, double-check the vehicle’s build and compliance dates. Once you’ve confirmed the VIN, you can run a comprehensive vehicle history check online for details on accident history, outstanding debt, and if any recalls were issued for the car model.
A used car with high mileage will have more wear and tear on its mechanical parts, leading to higher part replacement and repair costs further down the line. They can be a little less expensive than used cars with lower mileage, but unless you’re getting a good deal, it’s best to go for a car with low mileage if possible.
A working engine goes a long way, especially for a second-hand car. Take the time to look under the hood and check the engine for any fluid leaks, corrosion, cracked hoses and worn belts while the vehicle is turned off. You should also check for oil discolouration and transmission dipsticks and try starting the engine to ensure it runs smoothly.
Check that all the tyres are in good condition and show no damage or excessive wear. Uneven tread or excessive wear on a few tyres frequently indicates poor alignment, which can indicate steering, suspension, or frame issues. All tyres should ideally be of the same brand and pattern.
Lights & Indicators
Ensure that all the lights on the car are in working condition, and keep an eye on the instrument panel warning lights while the car is running. If you notice that the lights on the used car aren’t working correctly, make a replacement request to ensure it’s not an electrical or wiring issue.
Each car has its unique suite of electronic accessories available. Take note of the car model you’re interested in and check if all the factory electronics are working. This can include the AC, parking sensors, stereo, reverse camera, navigation systems, and so on.
Comfortable and good-looking seats are essential. Inspect the seats and interior upholstery for tears, stains, or cracked leather on all the seats. Upholstery can be pricy to fix, so make sure you’re happy with the condition before choosing to buy in.
Drive and passenger safety are a priority, so be sure to test out every seat belt in the car to ensure they’re in good condition, from the locking mechanism to the well they extend and retract.
Body & Paint
Inspect the body for dents, ripples, creases, loose, misaligned, or mismatched panels, paint overspray, rust or crash repair evidence, and hail damage. If there is minor damage, consider the costs of touching it up using paintless dent removal or traditional panel repair.
Keep an eye out for frame issues as you walk around the vehicle. Look for new bolts or warping in the bumpers, trunk, and hood, which could indicate a recent accident or repair work.
Test Driving The Car & Mechanic Inspection
If you find your used car of choice to be perfectly serviceable after a once-over, the next most important step is to give it a test drive. Take the car out for a spin on a familiar route so you can test its manoeuvrability and handling, and keep an ear out for any rattling or potential issues that may arise while driving.
If you want to be thorough, you can bring the used car for a mechanic inspection to see if any underlying issues weren’t apparent during your check. It may cost a bit extra, but it’s definitely worth the asking price to ensure you get a perfectly functioning second-hand car.
We hope this brief checklist and guide have helped you determine what you need to look out for when selecting a second-hand car!