Buying a used car, a vehicle that has been used and abused by someone unknown to you, is a daunting task for many. The thought of having to deal with dodgy salesmen, questionable vehicle condition and the discrepancy of its paperwork, are reasons why many avoid buying second hand cars.
The main reason many get burned isn’t because most second hand car dealers are looters and pillagers, though that’s how some dodgy ones make a living. It’s just that buyers aren’t aware of the basic How-to of car buying, a skill every individual who is thinking of buying a pre-owned car must have. Today, we are going to take a look at some common mistakes many amateurs make when testing the waters ie opting for a used car instead of a new one.
Mistake #1: Taking the word of the salesman
Regardless of how well he is dressed or trustworthy he may seem, be wary of him trying to talk up the car. Words like accident-free, low mileage and “very good condition” are thrown out there like gospel truth when in actual fact, the exact opposite is true. Inspect the vehicle yourself or do one better and take your trusted mechanic with you for a full inspection.
Mistake #2: Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it’s mechanically sound
It is standard procedure to clean a vehicle inside and out, to make it as presentable as possible. Don’t be surprised when you pop open a used vehicle’s hood to see an engine bay that looks brand new. Looks can be deceiving as appearances don’t necessarily correlate to a well oiled machine. Achieving such perfection requires nothing more than a tin of kerosene, an old rag and some elbow grease.
Mistake #3: Be wary of a “cut and shut” job
Many first time used car buyers aren’t aware of this age old trick of putting vehicles that have been involved in severe accidents back on the road at minimum cost. A “cut and shut” or “half-cut” as it is known over here, is a method where the entire front end of a damaged vehicle is cut off and replaced with that of a donor one. Though both are identical, after a cut and shut job, the integrity of the vehicle’s body structure will be severely compromised. In the event of a crash, the crumple zones will not be able to absorb the impact as intended and instead the entire body will crumple like a sardine can. The best way to spot a cut and shut job is to look for welding work near the vehicle’s firewall and A-pillars.
Mistake #4: Insist on taking a test drive
Many dealers refuse to offer test drives to potential buyers either because they don’t think you will actually buy the vehicle or worse, that they are trying to hide certain faults. The only way to know for sure that a vehicle is in good condition, is to take a short test drive. You will be amazed of how much you can learn by spending just five minutes driving the car instead of walking around it and kicking the tyres. If you are refused a test drive or told that you will be given one once you have put down a deposit, just walk away. If they do not value your time enough to warrant a test drive, you shouldn’t be giving them your business.
Mistake #5: Neglecting to look at the paperwork
Never deal with unscrupulous dealers, especially those who aren’t too comfortable showing you the vehicle’s documentation. This could be the sign that the vehicle is involved in some legal matters or worse, stolen. After you are satisfied with the condition of a vehicle, ask to be shown the vehicle’s grant and relevant servicing paperwork. If a dealer refuses to furnish such documents, no matter how convincing the excuse maybe, do yourself a favour and walk away.