Looking to buy a used car but worried about getting burnt? Whether buying from car dealerships or through a private seller, the number one principle is: Don't buy on impulse. In short, you should always dedicate your time and effort in exchange for many happy driving years to come.
Let's face it; a car is not the same toy we played with in pre-school. If it broke, a bit of glue, a screw, or duct tape was the entire repair it needed to get going again. Since it's a large investment, extra patience and thought goes a long way before committing to the exchange of a good portion of your monthly salary.
Before you look for any car, it is important to:
Know your needs
"Of course I know what I need", I hear you say. However, if you don't think about this carefully now, you'll discover all about it after you've driven that new car for a week, a month, or even a year. That: "I wish I had..." feeling will haunt you for as long as you have the car that you signed up for.
Aside from your need for speed and: "It must be red", if you're a "what-if" type of person, you'll need to consider practicalities over looks.
Think about storage space, both boot and interior. Is the cubby big enough for all of your bits and pieces? Does the boot accommodate your shop-a-holism? Are you using it for short distances or long? Do you intend keeping it for a long time or are you the type to change vehicles on a whim?
Know your budget
Obviously you aren't going to look at an Infiniti Q60 if your bank statement clearly says Toyota Tazz. But remember that there are the other expenses that tag themselves onto the purchase of a pre-owned car.
Factor in insurance premiums, transfer fees, vehicle registration, licence fees, theft protection, roadworthy certificates etc.
Do Your Homework
Once you know what model you want according to your needs and budget, research, research, research!
Understand the vehicle's strengths and weaknesses, what will it cost to repair, as well as how easily spare parts are obtained. Compare specs, read reviews, research to the death until you can't anymore. If it doesn't tick all of the boxes, but it's still the model that you really, really want, fine. Just as long as you go into it with your eyes wide open.
Before buying a pre-owned car, it is important to ensure that you have the following (in order of priority): a service history, roadworthy certificate, and, especially when buying from a private seller and no documentation is available, a police clearance certificate.
Before buying any vehicle you've set your heart on, take some time to check it thoroughly, inside and out.
Check for signs of rust in less visible areas of the body; check that body panels are flush and that there are no mismatched panels; check for over spraying which could indicate accident damage; and check for uneven tyre wear which could indicate something more serious than improper inflation.
Check the odometer for signs of tampering; underneath seat covers for hidden damage; the condition of the seat belts; windscreen wipers; window operations; audio components; air conditioner; and signs of flood damage. Lastly, an often overlooked section under the boot: check that the spare wheel, jack and wrench are in its place.
Comfort in the driving position means that the car itself should fit you like a tailor-made suit. Some cars give the option for those short of stature to pump up the height of the seat. Many don't. The point is, when going for a test drive, any idiosyncrasies should be planned and prepared for. Bring your cushion, your favourite water bottle, your tin of mints - whatever you can't do without whilst driving and make sure that there is a place for it.
Once buckled in, check for smooth gear changing, engine power in relation to the size of the vehicle, that no vibrations are coming off of the brake pedal, and be sure to test the braking ability under pressure, in a safe zone.
It's no secret that buying a used car from a reputable dealership is the best way in which to ensure long term satisfaction. A good dealership will check, double check and triple check all of the crucial points to ensure that you're getting a trouble-free vehicle that looks and feels almost new. For peace of mind and minimum hassle, your heart (and head) will thank you for it.