Looking to save some money and keep yourself on the road for the years to come, buying a used vehicle sounds like a great idea. And it is. However, be prepared to spend plenty of time researching and looking for the best deal that won’t leave you with a lemon and facing a claim in VCAT or the small claims court.
Buying a new or used vehicle is a challenge. Get the sums and factors right and you could be enjoying a number of years of trouble free motoring – get it wrong and you could be in for a nightmare of a ride.
There are some advantages to buying new such as being the first owner and knowing that all the new vehicles lined up in the yard are all the same coupled with a factory warranty and support. Used cars, however, are all different. They differ in that they have been driven by different styles of drivers, serviced at different mechanics at different service intervals, may have been neglected, garaged or parked on the street, damaged in an accident or left to the elements of weather and sun. There is also a difference in the way people drive, younger or older or whether the owner had the vehicle in the country or city. Just remember, country roads can be pretty rough or the sandblasting effects of living near the coast.
Here are some tips and warnings to ensure you get what you’re looking for and following a few basic guidelines so that you come up with a winner of a vehicle.
Before Buying A Used Car.
There are several factors you will want to consider before embarking on the process of purchasing a used car:
- Understanding the Risks of Buying Used vs New cars: There are several risks involved when you buy used. Whether you are buying from a secondhand motor vehicle dealer or private seller, they each have the same goal in mind which is to make as much money as possible on the deal or return from their initial outlay for the vehicle in question. Either one could mask the issues of a car that has been in an accident or is faulty in some other way. As a result, that great deal you thought you made can turn out to cost you a small fortune in maintenance costs. From experience, there have been many genuine sellers that openly tell you what work needs to be done. In one case, I purchased a Volvo C30 and the owner deducted $3,000 from the vehicle price after it was independently assessed by a mechanic and the cost of works factored in.
- Do Your Research: In order not to be stung by a used lemon so to speak, find out all there is to know about a certain vehicle from its manufacturing date. One site that has been around for a number of years coming from a print version guide is the dog and lemon guides. I have found information on vehicles that I didn’t even know existed such as another Volvo I purchased and a particular run of models having a Japanese motor in them. There are numerous youtube videos and review sites that give overviews of the standard problems encountered with particular models of vehicle. Look over paperwork, ask questions, inspect the vehicle, and be sure you have a complete history of all the previous owners. Look for previous accidents, services the car may have undergone, and what rights you have as a consumer in your state or territory. Do NOT sign the dotted line until you feel your research has been thoroughly satisfied. Be aware that cooling off periods may apply where you are too.
- Check the roadworthy certificate.
- Check the interior of the vehicle. There shouldn’t be splits or rips happening in areas such as the trim. The interior should be clean and free of smells. Generally, it goes without saying that a clean interior is usually indicative of someone who has looked after the vehicle, where something that smells could be that water has been in the vehicle for example. Check the motor and again, it should be clean, free of oil leaks or leaks in general. Tyres should be checked. Worn tyres and the type of wearing can tell you a lot how the car has been driven by the owner or if there’s a problem with the suspension or wheel alignment.
- Looking at the paint work whether its blotchy or faded can indicate how it’s been garaged or not garaged. SUVs with scratches and scrapes along the sides can give a clue to some bush use.
- Things like rubbers, batteries, radiators and cam timing belts all deteriorate. Some vehicles need to have a major service and it might be that the car you are buying is being sold by the current owner just before a major log book service is due. In some cases the owner may have driven the vehicle past its service date.
- Take the car for a test drive and make sure you listen to noises, in particular, the automatic transmission and any noises that may be coming from the transmission area. Look for sluggishness in takeoff or surging or shuddering on acceleration or incorrect selection of the gears.
- Get the car checked out with a motoring body such as the RACV.
RACV provides a 30-day mechanical guarantee on pre-purchase and comprehensive vehicle inspections, available exclusively to RACV members. Members will receive a reimbursement towards the cost of repairing a mechanical fault not identified on the inspection report, giving added assurance when purchasing a used vehicle.
- Figure Out Your Needs: As obvious as this may sound, the principle is nonetheless essential. You should never go car shopping without knowing exactly what you need, surprisingly it happens! People that have gone out looking for a 4 door car end up buying a 2 door car or an SUV. If you aren’t clear the dealer may take more of your money than you were willing to spend. Are you going to be taking road trips in this vehicle, or will it be mainly for local transportation? What is your budget (can you afford to buy a Porsche, even if it’s used)? Will this vehicle drastically increase your motor vehicle insurance premium? Do you really need the extra protection the seller is offering? These and much more are all necessary questions to ask yourself before buying. Some dealers offer a lot of trimmings and in recent times it has been exposed in the print media that what the dealers are offering is not exactly a great deal for consumers prompting an investigation by ASIC. Many dealers offer finance and you have to weigh up whether the finance is to your benefit or how it impacts your running costs for tax reasons.
- Decide Between A New Or Used Car Dealer or Private Seller: Each one offers certain advantages that can sway you to one or the other, depending on what means more to you. With a dealer, you will have the opportunity to purchase a warranty and trade-in your previous vehicle. On the other hand, with a private seller, you are likely to purchase a used car for a significantly cheaper price. I have found some great deals online such as through Gumtree or carsales.com.au. Those are the two main websites that I use to buy and sell vehicles. The other online notice boards out there and car sales sites tend not to be so popular or user-friendly.
What to Be Wary Of When Buying A Car.
The options where to buy vehicles boils down to three locations. New or used car dealers, auto aucitons or private sellers.
Car Dealers – Retail prices, cooling off period, the warranty provided, test drive possible, trade-ins.
- Most car dealers will be more expensive than private sellers. Although buying from a dealer can be the easiest and safest option. The “expense” tag is generally the dealers profit margin, covering rent, commissions and running costs. Vehicles tend to be better presented and under law they have to provide a warranty with every sale with this extra cost usually being passed onto the purchaser of the vehicle. Be sure to check on the market value for a certain vehicle so that you won’t be paying more than you have to. Remember that you have the power to negotiate. Auto pricing sites tend to have high prices on vehicles and tend NOT TO BE a guide. I have seen some sites quoting rates for vehicles that are just way, way off the mark. Be careful as to these guides to establish true market value.
- There is usually a cooling-off period and the dealer has to guarantee that the vehicle is free from encumbrances such as it is free of finance, the odometer is correct and the vehicle is not on the written off vehicle register.
- Understand that the psychology of a dealer is to make as much money as possible, and sooner rather than later. Although they may negotiate with you to sell the car for less than marked, they will likely attempt to make up that money with extras (financing, insurance, protections, warranties, etc.). They may also force you to decide too quickly by telling you a certain deal will end soon. Take your time to make the right decision.
- If you happen to buy a warranty, be sure you completely understand its terms or else it could be extra money out of your pocket.
- You have the advantage of being able to trade your vehicle if using a motor vehicle dealer and save the hassle of selling the car privately.
- Buying at a car auction has to be the least expensive when dealing with dealers as you are buying alongside other motor vehicle dealers. The downside usually with car auctions is that you can inspect the car but you cannot usually drive them. If the hammer falls and the car is yours based on your bid then there is no warranty or there is no comeback. It’s yours. So beware.
- Car Auction list is – Trade prices, no test drive and no comeback if something goes wrong.
Private Seller – Negotiability on prices, can test drive the vehicle but have no recourse should somehting go wrong.
- Buying privately forces you to rely solely on your own judgment. You will have to do your own inspection or hire someone to perform one for you.
- Private sellers may, just as dealers might, mask certain issues a vehicle has without letting you know. Since there is no protection for private sellers, it is extremely imperative that you request the vehicle’s entire history.
- With private sellers, there is a possibility that the current owner is still in debt with the vehicle. You will want to find official information to ensure this is not the case before purchasing.
- Recently there have been concerns with people who are dealers posing as private sellers online. We mentioned this in a previous article on hidden traps with buying online. Some buyers have also been caught with odometer tampering which has severe penalties.
While used car buying may be more stressful than exciting, understanding how to prepare and what to look out for will put you on the path towards a great deal.
5 Cars Worth Looking At To Buy Secondhand.
We often get asked – What are our top tips for best-used car to buy. So far if we have to put a short list of secondhand vehicles to buy then this would be it.