Hi, it’s Pete here from Northside Automotive, with some advice about buying a used car.
If you’re buying your first car or you’re limited by a strict budget, looking for a second hand used car is a great option.
However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to making your final decision. There are plenty of horror stories about buyers being ripped off and losing money after purchasing a used car that had hidden damage or faults.
The most important thing to remember when shopping around for a used car is that you must inspect each car thoroughly. If you’re unsatisfied with something about the car, don’t settle for second best. Instead, look for something else that ticks all the boxes.
Here is a comprehensive list of checks to make before you commit to buying a used car.
- First of all – don’t be afraid to ask the seller the hard questions. Get them to tell you how long they’ve owned the car, why they’re selling it, whether it’s ever been damaged, if it’s in good condition, does it have a roadworthy certificate or would it pass a roadworthy test, and does it have a comprehensive service history?Make sure that you’re satisfied with the answers! It’s also worth checking up on the car’s history by using its VIN (vehicle identification number). This will make sure that the car hasn’t been stolen and isn’t encumbered by an outstanding loan.
- While you’re at the inspection, check the body of the car. Look out for chips in the paintwork, rusts, or dents. If you’re able to, get underneath the car and check out the exhaust – black spots on the exhaust could indicate leaking.
- Check all the tyres, including the spare. Make sure that there is plenty of tread left on the tyres, and that the wear is even.
- Get under the bonnet. Look out for any welding or overspray on the engine – this is an indicator that the car has been fixed cheaply after a crash. Look for oil leaks, and use the dipstick to check the oil level. If the level is low, it could mean the seller hasn’t been looking after the car. Lastly, check around the oil filler cap for a white, mayonnaise-like substance – if this is present it means that the car has a leaking head gasket. This would cost you a lot of money to replace.
- Check the car’s interior. Make sure that all of the seatbelts are in working order, and that the front seats can move backwards and forwards. Check that all of the switches and features on the dash work and are in good condition. Have a look at the car’s mileage, and remember, an old car with low mileage is not always a good sign.
- Take the car for a test drive. Try and start the car with a cold engine, this will indicate best whether the car struggles to start or if there is any smoke that could mean engine wear. Before you set off, test the steering lock to see if there are any power steering issues. During your drive, try out the brakes, handbrake and listen for any irregular engine noise (make sure the radio is off!) The transmission should shift up and down smoothly, and if the car is a manual, make sure the clutch doesn’t slip.
- Lastly, before you make any payment, ensure that the car’s registration and service history is in order. Double check that you have the original versions, and not just photocopies. After you’ve made the deposit or payment – ask the seller for a receipt with the seller’s full details.
Finally, in Queensland, it is a legal requirement that the car has a current safety certificate. The buyer must be able to show you this at time of inspection. For more information visit the Queensland Government website on selling a used car. If the car is fitted with any gas systems, a gas safety certificate must also be available to view.
Remember – it’s always worth taking someone who knows a thing or two about cars along to the inspection with you. Mechanics (such as the ones here at Northside Automotive!) can also look over a used car and give you advice for a fee. But sometimes that small fee can save you a lot of heartache in the future.
Good luck, and happy driving!