It’s a known fact that new cars lose significant amounts of value in the first year, and some claim as much as 30%. Depending on the model, a new car can lose 60% of its initial value in the first three to five years. This in mind makes sense that an AA-Populus poll in the UK showed that just under 75% of all cars are bought used.
However, buying used comes with more risks. How do you know that you’re getting a car in good condition? Are you protected after driving the vehicle away? Here are some things to look for when purchasing a used model.
The information you need to learn about a used car isn’t actually with the vehicle itself. Instead, it’s in the associated paperwork. Therefore, ask if you need a certificate of roadworthiness, check the driver’s license of the seller (if buying privately), and check the VIN number and engine number against the registration papers.
If you don’t know much about cars, you can feel a bit silly walking around the vehicle trying to look as though you know what you’re doing. Here are some of the secrets to a reasonable inspection:
- Look for bubbling paintwork (or differences in colour to indicate a prior accident)
- Check the tyre tread and condition
- Look under the car for leaks
- Open and close all windows and doors
- Check that there’s no oil in the coolant
- Check for a clear dipstick (and no milky oil to suggest problems)
- Ensure the dashboard and upholstery are in good condition
- Make sure the seatbelts work properly
- Look for leaks or wet patches inside
- Start the engine and watch for fumes while idling
- Listen for irregular noises and look for leaks
From here, you can then ask to take the car for a drive. You know how a car should feel, so pay close attention and heighten your senses during a test drive. Listen for rattling or other sounds, smell for unwanted odours or excessive gas, and feel the steering wheel and how it reacts on the road. Make sure no warning lights show on the dashboard and that the car doesn’t veer without steering. Also, you should be able to change gears smoothly while the brakes apply without stiffness.
If you aren’t comfortable checking all of these things by yourself, contact an independent party like Collishaw Auto for an expert inspection. They’ll assess all of the above (and more) before then giving advice.
Talk with the Seller
Have conversations with car dealership services to learn about previous owners, the car’s history, any potential accidents, mileage, cost of filling the tank, registration, safety features, and anything else you want to know about the car. If you’re spending lots of money on a vehicle, it’s your right to feel comfortable before signing anything.
Check the Warranty and Cooling-Off Period
Depending on where you are in Australia, the warranty and cooling-off period change. For example, in New South Wales, you get a 5,000km statutory warranty (or three months, if this comes first) on all vehicles under ten years of age and under 160,000km. After signing a purchase agreement, you also get a one-day cooling-off period. Meanwhile, the warranty differs in other states, and some don’t have a cooling-off period at all.
Do you get a powertrain warranty to cover the engine and other power parts? Ensure you feel comfortable before signing anything, and don’t be afraid to get help if you need it!