Buying cars is often a milestone in many people’s lives. Many of us buy brand new cars, while a lot many buy used cars. In my personal opinion, buying a pre-owned car is often a better deal than purchasing one straight from a showroom. The reason being the ratio of its depreciated value to the mechanical age and performance.
A car couple of years old can perform just as perfectly as a brand new unit, but its resale price as compared to the showroom price can have a satisfactory value for a prospective buyer, and hence can be well within their budgeted limits.
So if you have plans on buying a pre owned car, here are a few tips that will help you be a confident buyer –
- Odometer check should be the number one check. This reading will determine the worth of your prospective car as you go through your personal inspection as listed below. Also, a comparison of the year of manufacture of the car and its corresponding Odometer reading can give you a brief and an important outlook of the car’s previous usage. An average person drives about 15,000 to 25,000 kms a year in India. We must remember that a car ages by the year and its mileage. An old car with low mileage is not necessarily a very good option.
- Make sure the car is standing on level ground. This can help you see even weight distribution on both its axles. A considerable sag on any wheel is a good sign of bad previous usage and may very well make you alert.
- Dents, bumps, rust and scratches indicate how far the previous owner has taken care of the car. A lot of these specks would mean, that the car was a neglected piece and perhaps could need a lot more post-purchase maintenance.
- Trunk of the car is an important place for a personal inspection, as it’s the most roughly used and rarely maintained part of a car. Presence of rust and scrapes are a good indication to figure out the history of how heavily the car was used.
We must remember that a car ages by the year and its mileage. An old car with low mileage is not necessarily a very good option.
- The HOOD: What lies beneath the hood is an important part to be checked and inspected thoroughly. Genuine parts of the car like its Fenders carry Vehicle Identification Numbers or VIN. If those are absent, the fenders were probably replaced, which is a clear indication of a frontal collision. Any such collision is sure to yield damage to the engine, radiator, AC, engine cooling system, pipes and leads etc. The timing belt is one of the most expensive part of the engine. It must be inspected for irregularities. If possible have your own mechanic inspect this part. If the belt is made of steel, then it usually is a good sign and may be overlooked as it can last more than 300,000 kms without exceptional wear and tear. Presence of rust can indicate how much the car was neglected by its previous user. The hoses and the belts should be inspected as well. Presence of cracks indicate wear and tear, and perhaps an imminent failure or more post-purchase expenses. Soft pipes and hoses should also be noted, and later on negotiated upon for changes if possible, as they are more prone to damage than hard ones.
- Insides of the car are the parts that will be an integral part of your driving and owning experience. Looking out for stained seats, loose seat covers and unfastened seats are a must during your personal inspection. There must not be substantial visible damage in this section of the car. Check for lose bolts by gently tugging at all the seats. Pull the lock levers of the doors to check if they don’t have play and are not lose. All these little things can save your post-purchase expenses later.
Presence of rust and scrapes are a good indication to figure out the history of how heavily the car was used.
- Air Conditioning is often a very expensive check. While visually inspecting your prospective car, there is no way to check the cooling gas levels in the AC system. So it’s a must in your checklist to start the engine and run your car for 5 mins to check the cooling levels the AC offers. If you are the only person inspecting the car, you must practically feel chilly with the AC unit at full rev. More people in the car will effectively reduce the cooling. If you experience chills while you’re alone, your AC unit is fine.
- Previous maintenance and repair history must be checked if available. If not available, it will be a good idea to contact the car owner for the same. Frequent repairs and maintenance may be a bad sign, but in many ways may also be judged as a good sign as it suggest regular maintenance. It will be essential to see these reports to know if the work done on the car was preventive maintenance or required as a part of repairs following an accident.
- The test drive: Last but definitely not the least, test drive the car. Check brakes, check acceleration and look out for unfamiliar sounds of any kind. A lot of unidentified sounds and reactions is good way to change mind about the purchase. It’s not worth trying to figure out which part of the car needs work and which can be dealt with. Used cars are negotiable commodities and there is a lot of fish in the sea.
- Looking under the car and exhaust system is not really an essential part. Look for rust and leaks, and if found, just have them repaired.
- NEVER buy a car with a visible damaged frame.
- Tires if worn out can always be changed or exchanged. But if they alter your budget, they can be a limiting factor in your purchase.
Used cars are negotiable commodities and there is a lot of fish in the sea.
Once through a check list like this, you are halfway down a smart and stress-free process of choosing a second-hand car. Since choice of a car varies from person to person, and to a great extent a subjective issue, I have only included general terms that can be envisaged before purchasing a car. The specifics are specific to the individual purchasing the car. Ergonomics and aesthetics have not been discussed, nor has the performance much talked upon in the test drive as they differ form car to car.
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