5 Essential checks to make before buying a used car

Buying a used car is a great option if you are looking to save some cash, or don’t want to lose money in depreciation by purchasing a brand new car.  It is estimated that new cars lose an average of 40% in their first year – that’s a lot of money wasted, especially if you are making an effort to budget and save.

However, buying a used car isn’t without its challenges and can be a daunting process for anyone who isn’t mechanically minded or has never purchased a used vehicle before. As with most things in life, the key to success is to do lots of research and planning, ensure you have a clear focus and idea of what you are looking for and be sensible. Buying a car is an exciting time and by applying a little thought, should ensure it stays exciting and doesn’t turn into a nightmare!

So whether you are buying a used car from a dealership, or using a private seller, you should take a look at the following suggestions in order to mitigate the risk of buying a dud:

1. Check Your Budget

Work out how much you can comfortably afford to spend – will you be paying cash or arranging a finance deal?  Don’t forget to include insurance, there’s little point buying a vehicle at the top of your budget and then realising the premiums for that particular make and model are way outside of your affordability.  It’s so quick and easy to compare car insurance from Captain Compare, or another online comparison websites – all you need are a few basic details and the rest is taken care of.

 Once you’ve set a budget, spend some time researching the make and model of car you would like. Check a range of different resources to establish the average price for this particular motor to avoid paying out too much…although remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is!

2. Check the Vehicle’s History

When you purchase a new car from a licensed dealer, to prove there is no finance outstanding on the vehicle, they must produce a warranty. However, if you’re buying from a private seller there are no guarantees that this will happen.

You should always check that cars are debt free, and that any finance owing on the car has been completely paid or written off before laying down cash.  Failure to do so could result in the vehicle being repossessed by the finance agency the money is owed to.

Make a note of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and check against the relevant databases of the state you are in.  In most states and territories, this is known as a REVS check and if you are a member of an automobile club, they will organise this check for you.

 3. Check for Accidents

When you finally view the car, do so in daylight and take some time to look around it from all angles.  Check for any defects, gaps between panels, mismatching paint, or obvious repair jobs.  This could indicate the car has been in an accident and the repairs have been carried out poorly.

4. Check the Condition

Key things to check include:

  • Areas of rust – most common places include wheel arches, doorframes and under bumpers. Press gently on rust patches to see whether they make a ‘cracking’ sound – this could indicate corrosion underneath.
  • Check on top and under the engine for signs of oil leaks.  Check the oil level with a dipstick; if it’s low then the car may not have been looked after well.
  • Look around the oil filter cap for a thick white substance. This could indicate the head gasket is going which is a very expensive job.
  • Check the tyre tread on all wheels, including the spare.
  • Make sure all the interior features work and that there are no warning lights on the dashboard.

 5. Check how it drives

You should always take the car for a test drive before buying, however much you fall in love with it at first sight.  Start the car from a cold engine which will identify starting issues and then turn the wheel fully from left to right to make sure there are no knocking, screeching or banging sounds.

During the drive itself, try to find as many different road surfaces as possible to check how the vehicle handles.  Move through all the gears and notice how the clutch feels when doing so.

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About the Author: Andrew