Buy a not so second-hand car
The goal to buying a second hand car is to buy one as un-second hand as possible. What we mean is getting the one you want, in the best condition, for a good price. Here are some tips to make the experience a smooth ride.
Not just auto alley
With the amount of choice at your disposal, buying a used car has never been easier. You’re no longer restricted to a few car yards down the road, there are a boot full of used car sites, private sales and reputable dealerships. It really is personal preference, however searching online will quickly narrow down your choice.
Too small, too big
Search for the type of car that fits your lifestyle and don't be tempted to stray. You'd be surprised how many people end up buying a completely different car that's totally unsuitable.
Once you've narrowed down your options, it's time to kick a few tyres. But before you go, do some research on the car, read reviews and find out what to look out for in the used car you're after.
Set yourself a budget and try not to stray too far from it. Just remember, you’ll have registration and stamp duty fees and probably a servicing to add to the cost of purchase. It’s not a new car you’re buying and there’s a chance some mechanical repairs will pop up.
Here are some other considerations when inspecting:
Ask more questions. Try and find out as much as you can about the car's history. Are you speaking with the first owners, where did they buy it from, how long have they owned it, when do they mostly use it?
Four eyes are better than two. If you can, bring along a trusted friend who knows more about cars than you to check things you’re not sure of. They might spot things that you didn’t even think to look for.
You can't see in the dark. No matter how eager you are to see a car, never carry out an inspection in the dark, bad light or rain, they can all hide scratches, dents and rust.
Tyre tick. You can check the tread depth by looking at the tread wear indicator bars moulded into the tyre tread. These are found at the bottom of the tread grooves around the tyre. When the tyre is worn to the point where any of the bars become equal with the adjacent tread, it’s time to replace it.
Body check. Run your eyes along all panels and carefully check the paint job for scratches or dents. Check the joins for uneven matching, welding or variation in gaps as this could mean crash repairs. Look under the bonnet and carpet for rust and signs of welding or paint overspray.
Leaks are messy. Check the engine block and under the engine and on the floor for any oil leaks. The engine bay should be clean and tidy. Check oil levels are correct on the dipstick and the oil is clean. Transmission oil should be a clean pink or red.
Worn Belts and rubber. All belts should look new and not shabby. Look for tears, nicks or frays. Feel all the hoses - they should be firm and not rubbery or loose fitting.
Go under. Bring a torch. Take a crawl and stick your head under the car (as much as you can). Check the exhaust system is clean with no rust spots or holes.
Service please. Always ask for the service book and see if all the right rubber stamps are on the right pages at the right time, especially the big services like timing belt replacement.
Get behind the wheel
If it passes your first inspection, it’s time for a test drive. Take a seat and look around - you should feel comfortable from the start. Here's what you should look for on your test drive:
The car should start first time and settle into a smooth idle.
Keep the radio turned off and listen for any clunky engine or suspension noises.
Test the air con to see if it's powerful and cold on maximum setting.
Test the brakes on a quiet road to ensure a firm and smooth stop.
Test the handbrake on a steep hill to make sure it’s correctly adjusted.
Drive through all gears in a manual - they should engage smoothly and quietly, with no clutch slip. An auto should also change gears quickly and smoothly.
Drive the car at highway speeds if possible to give a better impression of handling.
Ask for the spare set of keys. If you need to buy another they can be surprisingly expensive.
Shake on it
Your nan will have advice on how to negotiate a car deal - everyone does! But it all depends on how much you want the car and how eager the seller is to move it on. Best advice - be fair and reasonable. Some other points to remember if you buy:
Do a REVS check (revs.com.au) to see if there's any money owing on the car.
Ensure registration and service history details match seller and car.
Consider stamp duty and transfer fees in the price.
If you feel comfortable with it - pay with cash. It's a great bargaining tool!
Organise insurance before driving away.
Make a car “less second hand” with new tyres
If you have any doubt about the quality or roadworthiness of the tyres on your used car, one of the best things you can do is replace them. New quality tyres can improve performance, comfort, handling and above all safety.
Have an expert at your local Bridgestone Tyre Store advise you on the right tyres to make your used car feel good as new.
Had any good or bad experiences buying used cars? Do you prefer buying from a car dealer or owner? Share them with us and let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook.