Don’t be fooled: 5 tips for buying a good used car

Cape Town – New car prices are exorbitant, at least for some, but that’s not the case for 36,794 lucky South Africans who registered their new cars in January 2017.

For the last five years, during January, new car sales in SA have been stable around the 35,000 mark and annually, 547,442 units were sold in 2016 compared to 617,648 in 2015. That is a considerable difference in sales are down 11.4% and experts say that’s unlikely to improve. this year.

Buying a used car in SA

According to WesBank, statistics indicated that 38,343 new cars were sold in May 2016 compared to 89,390 used cars, clearly showing that new vehicle sales are not even close to used car sales.

Who doesn’t love the smell of a new car or the fact that you’re the first owner, but second-hand cars simply offer better value for money, especially feature for feature. Used cars are also likely to lower your bank balance with a much lower insurance premium than a new car.

On the other hand, there is that nagging feeling of breakdown in a used car, and sometimes the sellers don’t help either. Anyone can get an ‘OBD2 code’ reader and shady sellers can clear codes without fixing any problems.

Rest assured, following these simple steps will help you choose your new (used) car carefully without being taken advantage of.

Step 1: Use your head, not your heart

We’ve all been there and know how hard it is not to fall in love with what appears to be a bargain. Whether it’s your dream because as a child or a reminder of your first true love, be smart and make the right choice. Used car dealers thrive on smitten customers as they are easily swayed and could end up in utter failure.

When looking to buy a car the secret is to search far and wide and here the internet can be extremely helpful. Evaluate all your options and be careful buying the first one because you see. Give yourself a realistic chance to explore and see what’s out there. Use the first three cars as a reference point to weigh all the pros and cons in the future.

Step 2 – Avoid Exotic Cars

If you’re shopping for a new car, you can buy just about anything you want since parts are available and the car will be under warranty. Buying a used exotic car is not that easy, mainly because there is no factory warranty and the service or maintenance costs are out of your pocket.

A good example is the parts of a Toyota Corolla or a VW Golf versus a Renault. An oil filter can cost as little as R60 but for a Renault more than R200. This easily increases when you own an exotic or performance car.

However, it is more than just considering the price of parts. You also need to find a service station that can confidently maintain your car. If your engine is more complex than that of a fighter jet, expect to pay higher rates.

In terms of performance, this very important question needs to be asked; ‘If this Golf GTI, Type R or BMW M3 is so good, why are they selling it?’

That may not always be the case, but more often than not, performance cars have likely been pushed to the limit before they were sold. Stay away from these unless you are knowledgeable about cars, have a decent mechanic, and are prepared to pay a premium for parts,

Step 3: Read the seller, not the price tag

There is no way to hide from subconscious signals unless you are a trained spy. Look closely at the salesperson as he talks about the car and walks around the car pointing out parts. Changing or nervous behavior is usually a sign that something is wrong with the car.

Be aware of the seller’s body language. If it seems uncomfortable, go with your gut and walk away. Instead of being stuck with a lemon.

I once saw a great looking car for sale, but the private seller seemed in a hurry. Luckily I had a good mechanic with me and he pointed out a soapy residue in the oil. For those who don’t know, that’s a telltale sign of a blown head gasket that can be very expensive to repair.

Step 4: Thorough inspection is vital

When the salesperson asks how much you know about cars, act like you don’t know much. This means that they will only focus on the good points of the car, leaving you with a great opportunity to review the things that they didn’t mention.

Specifically, check the brake discs for uneven wear; the color of the oil should be golden brown and not dark. Battery terminals should be clean, tires in good condition with even wear, and body should be straight. Check the body seams in the engine compartment and trunk for any signs of repair from the accident.

Also, give the car a hard push with the parking brake on. Of course, it shouldn’t move, but if it does, you’ve already identified a problem.

When a car is advertised as having a “new” battery, it could mean there is something wrong with the loom or alternator. Realistically, why would someone sell a car and give you a battery worth R1000? The same applies to new tires. They are expensive to ‘give away’ so be careful and be aware of faulty suspension or steering issues.

Lastly, look for body panels where the color appears to be a different shade. This could be an indication that the car was involved in an accident and an incomplete purchase.

Step 5: Give it a good test drive

Don’t just jump in and get going. Instead, have the seller start the engine and let the vehicle idle. Test the windshield wipers, lights, and listen for engine noise. Walk around the car and once it has been sitting idle for a while, turn it off.

Start the car again leaving the headlights on. If it doesn’t start immediately there may be an electrical problem. Check all lights, air conditioning, radio, power windows, and mirror switches.

During your test drive, be sure to test all gears and find a decent grade on your route. Feel for “flat spots” on acceleration, as this could indicate ignition or injector problems. The flat spots are where the acceleration stops momentarily and then goes back up.

Listen for strange noises. Some people are just bad drivers and the old saying comes to mind, “If you can’t find it, shred it”, so check for screeching sounds when you brake or shift gears especially. This may indicate serious mechanical failure and it is best to walk away.

High-pitched V-belt squeaks are also unacceptable under any circumstances and another reason to simply walk away. After the test drive, check to see if any fluid has leaked onto the ground. Oil or coolant could indicate serious problems with the oil seals, engine, or cooling system.

The last thing on the checklist is to trust your gut. Does the vehicle “feel right” to you? If the answer is yes, it’s time to sign on the dotted line and enjoy the engine until the next purchase.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *