It is a fact that not everyone can afford to buy a spanking new Suzuki Grand Vitara or Chevy Cruze. Whether it is just about your budget or you just prefer a car having been “broke in” before, there are a few things that are important when buying a used car.
- Get an inspection and a written repair estimate from a mechanic
This is very important. When buying any used car car, whether from someone you know well or through a classified advertisement, you should ensure that a reputable mechanic inspects it thoroughly and fill out an estimate on how much repairs the car will need. This is important as the car you buy must be worth the money you pay; it does not make sense paying a lot of money for a car and then have to pay double that amount in repairs.
- Get a vehicle history report…
…from the owner of the car. However, you run the risk of the person not being honest but at least you have your mechanic to figure out what are the problems plaguing the car.
- Get a warranty
Anyone legitimately selling a car should have no issues giving you an appropriate warranty for the used car. You need to ensure that you are adequately covered in case of any eventuality (for example, the car breaking down as soon as the ink is dry on the cheque).
- Do your research
It is important to have an idea of the model car you are looking for first before actively seeking out a used car to buy. This way you know what you are looking for and what to expect… thus making it less likely for you to fall victim to someone trying to con you. Also, salespersons at used car dealerships are likely to try to sell you what they think is best. By doing research, you will get to know what YOU want and therefore less susceptible to salespersons trying to steer you in their own direction. You should also research the average market value of the cars you are interested in. If the price being asked for is much lower that what the market says it should be, i advise that you leave that car where it is. Also, make sure you do not overpay for your car either!
- Question Question Question
Yes it may be annoying and overbearing, but never shy away from asking the seller as many questions about the car as possible: the age, why they are selling, the conditions, any issues etc.
- Inspect the vehicle
No you do not need the mechanic for this. You should be able to do an inspection of the car first before the mechanic does. Even if you do not know much about cars, there are a few things you can check. First, you can look down the trim lines to make sure everything is aligned well (for example the doors, the fender). Anything that is uneven could indicate damage to the frame. Also, the joints in the engine bay should also be straight with no signs that they have been recently welded. Underneath, make sure there is no rust ANYWHERE. Check the brake fluids (which is usually clear to yellowish or slightly tea coloured) and the transmission fluid (red or purple in colour). Make sure all belts and hoses are free of cracks. Inside the car, inspect seats, seatbelts and carpets especially under seat covers (if any). And please, be sure to do all inspections in full daylight!
- Test drive!
Oh yes please! This is possibly everyone’s favourite part about buying a car. Give it a good ramp first. This will say a lot about the car’s ability to accelerate and its suspension. Now we aren’t sending anyone to do drag racing on the narrow streets of Barbados, but try to take it for a dive where you can test out the speed, acceleration and brakes. Make sure while at a high speed the body of the car doesn’t shake; pedals should not feel spongy or stiff when breaking or accelerating, nor should they shudder under your foot. The biggest red flag on a test drive is if the car jolts into gear. This could be a sign of a faulty transmission. Budget carefully and definitely factor in any repair work that needs to be done.
- Secure all the necessary paperwork
Make sure you have originals of everything where possible – the vehicle service history, registration papers, car handbook etc.
- Make sure the seller is legit
If you are not working with a dealership but rather an individual, make sure he/she is on the up and up. Some persons may be trying to sell multiple cars and this may indicate that they not the owner of all the vehicles. Always, ALWAYS make sure the person you are buying from is the owner. Some people use their family and friends to pose as owners in order to sell a car that is not theirs. This is very important.
- Trust yourself
You may or may not know a lot about cars, but as long as you do your research and investigation into the used car dealer/seller, you are armed with all the necessary tools to make an informed judgement about whether or not you should by a particular car.
Knowledge is power; as long as you have that you cannot go wrong!
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