What to Look for When Buying Second Hand Car

Buying a car is a major expense. Getting the wrong car for the wrong price is a mistake you can’t afford to make. Being well informed and approaching the purchase with a plan is the right way to do it.

If you look at buying a car like a business decision and you compare the miles you get out of it against the cost of buying and maintaining the vehicle, buying a second hand car is almost always more cost effective than buying a new one.

Second Hand Car Salesmen

Car salesmen get paid a commission (20-30%) on the gross profit (the difference between what car is bought and sold for). That means there is a huge incentive for them to get you to overpay. If you are going to negotiate with a second hand dealer, you really need to know what the car is worth and be ready to negotiate them down to a fair price. Be warned they tend to be very good at selling cars to prospective buyers.

Second hand dealers will frequently advertise vehicles without telling you that they sell cars for a living. To find out whether this is the case, call and enquire about the advertised car. If they ask you: “Which one?” You know that you are dealing with someone who is most likely a professional car salesman.

Second hand dealers will always try to sell you on optional extras. It is very important that you know exactly what you want and how much you are willing to pay, before you start looking at the options.

Before you start looking at cars

You should have your financing sorted out before you start looking at cars. Do not accept any financing advice from the seller.

Newsagents sell second hand car price guides, using one will help you find out how much the cars that you are looking at, are actually worth. The best deals tend to be on cars that are less than 3 years old and with mileage between 10,000 and 15,000 miles. If the car is less than 3 years old and has more than 35,000 miles on it, it may have been used by a business and driven hard. If the mileage is very low the car may have been in storage for a long period. This could have damaged the engine. Moderately driven, frequently serviced cars are the best ones.

Small and medium hatchbacks and saloons are cheaper to maintain and repair than luxury cars and convertibles. Do as many price comparisons as possible. Don’t just look at second hand dealers, also consider private sellers and trade-ins at new car dealers. The effort is worth the savings.

Evaluating the car

Demand to see all of the car’s paperwork, pay specific attention to the vehicle’s service record. Check that the number on the registration document matches with the registration number on the car and the number on the chassis. If the paperwork or the inspection reveals that the car was in a serious accident, walk away. Cars that were in serious accidents may have hidden, life threatening defects.

Take a friend to the inspection and test drive, preferably one of you should know something about cars. Do the inspection in good light. First look for any signs of rust. If you find a spot with rust gently press down on the area around it. If you hear a cracking sound that indicates that it’s rusted on the inside. Light rust or blisters are cheap to repair. If however the metal is perforated it will be expensive to fix. Inconsistencies in paint colour may indicate badly done repairs. Water stains could be caused by leaks. Also check for oil or other types of leaks. During the test drive, let go of the steering wheel. The car should not drift right or left. Listen for sound from the engine. Engine repairs are expensive. Also keep an eye on the engine temperature, if it goes too high that may indicate serious engine problems.

When you apply the brakes the car should not swerve or shake and the brake pedal should offer proper resistance. If you think that a car might be right for you, take it to a mechanic for a full checkup.   If an issue with a car is not a deal breaker for you, you can use it to negotiate the price down.

Second hand car lot

Second hand car lot

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