So you’ve narrowed down your list of second hand cars to choose, and you’re sold on one of them. Sure, it may be selling for a good price and the pictures posted by the seller look promising, but it pays to take a few more extra steps to make sure that the vehicle you’re set on buying won’t turn into a headache or money pit down the road.
After all, a car, whether used or brand new, is the second biggest investment for most people. You want your purchase to last you years and give you the most bang for your buck. Does lower mileage mean that it was rarely used? Or was it sitting so long that it never ran in the first place? Let’s consider the following when shopping for your next big purchase.
Inspect the vehicle
One of the most important steps you need to take before you buy a second-hand vehicle is to inspect it. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t buy a vehicle without seeing it for yourself first and with your own eyes. Unless you have a big budget and money to burn, buying a vehicle based on its pictures alone is a big risk to take, especially if the damaged parts are not shown.
When inspecting a vehicle, do it in the daytime or in a well-lit area so you can thoroughly see the paint and check to see if there are any other damaged parts of the vehicle. Make sure to take a look at the tires and see if they are the same brand or if they are expired. If these are expired, then you might want to make sure that you have enough money in your budget to buy a new set as these can be costly to replace. Look for signs of heavy body repairs on the vehicle, this is a good indication that the car has been in an accident and has hastily been repaired. If there are signs or the seller informs you that the vehicle has been in an accident, make sure to see the documentation that the repairs were done properly and by a reputable shop.
Aside from the exterior, make sure to take a good look at the interior of the vehicle as well. Be on the lookout for any cracks in the plastics or tears in the fabric. Similar to any repairs done to the outside, look for the proper documentation for repairs done to the inside as well. When in doubt it’s always good to get a second opinion from a friend or professional to go over the vehicle with you.
Check for any leaks
When taking a look at a secondhand vehicle, make sure to check on the underside of the car. Park the vehicle in a clear dry spot and have it run for a few minutes. If there are any leaks, these should make their presence known within that time frame. Inspect the area where the vehicle was sitting and take note of any fluids that may have come out that aren’t condensation from the air conditioning system. Black fluid might be an indicator of the motor leaking oil, green fluid may indicate a coolant leak, and pink fluid may indicate that something is leaking from the transmission or from the power steering system. If you notice any leaks but they aren’t bad, you can use this as a bargaining tool later on if you still want to buy the vehicle. That said, these leaks could lead to big repair bills later on, so make sure that your budget is ready to handle any of these repairs.
Go over the vehicle’s history
It’s a good idea to check on the vehicle’s service history and ownership history before buying it. For the deed of sale, make sure that it's are notarized and the accompanying photocopied IDs of the previous owner are included. Also, check if there are other documents needed for the vehicle such as an authorization letter for its temporary plate. This applies to vehicles that are either ex-taxis or are part of a transport fleet. Either way, it’s important to have these documents to check if they are updated as they may hinder you from transferring ownership or from renewing the registration of the vehicle later on.
Check the veracity of the certificate of registration and original receipt to identify any issues such as encumbrance (any missing payments on the vehicle) and the last year it was registered.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of having to inspect a secondhand vehicle, you can also choose to go with a certified pre-owned unit. This means that the vehicle has been checked and verified and that steps have been taken to make sure that it is indeed a reputable purchase. Plus, the dealer in which you purchase the vehicle may even add some incentives such as an extended warranty or servicing package.
Choosing to go with a pre-owned vehicle is a much safer option because the dealer puts their reputation on the line by giving it a stamp of approval. So consider these types of vehicles when looking to get a secondhand vehicle.
Bring a trusted mechanic
When inspecting the vehicle, it’s always a good idea to have a person you can trust and who is a trained mechanic to go over the vehicle. This is to make sure you don’t miss out on any small details that could entail big costs down the line, such as engine parts, full replacement of components, or, worse, corners were cut to save on money but compromise safety. Have the mechanic list down any potential things that need replacing or any red flags about the vehicle, such as signs of flooding or major repairs from an accident.
Test Drive the vehicle
As a general rule of thumb, it is always a great idea to test drive a vehicle before you buy it. In different environments, you can get a good feel for how the car responds and performs. In the city, you can feel how the car shifts and responds to turns, as well as get an idea of the condition of the brakes with stop-and-go driving conditions. A trip on the highway will allow you to find out if the engine runs smoothly under more load. While on a test drive, keep your eyes and ears open. Make sure to note any unusual engine or brake noises, and whether or not all of the electronics in the car are working properly. Making a note of any odd or unusual noises or sounds as these could be a good indicator that suspension components are on their way out or need to be replaced soon. That being said, if you really want the vehicle then you can use these as bargaining points later on to get it at a more affordable price. Once you have done all of these things, give yourself time to think about the vehicle and see if it’s a worthwhile purchase.