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Top tips to buy a used car

Snapshot: Here's our comprehensive guide to go shopping for a used car with confidence

Buying a used car is a bit of art and a bit of science mixed together. How can you be sure if the used car you’ve zeroed in on isn’t a bucket load of worries? What if all that shiny metal is hiding a bag of trouble? A second hand deal can be tricky but more so if you are planning to buy from an unauthorized used dealer without any warranties or after-sales support. Though it might look like a stellar deal at the time but are you sure your dream used car won’t be a cause of heartache in the years to come? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind to buy the right used car for yourself. Here’s our comprehensive guide which promises to take the worry out of buying a used car.

1.Take a friend along
Incase you aren’t confident enough with your choice then it makes sense to take a friend along who knows about cars or maybe even a good mechanic who is well known to you. If you can get professional help, then don’t mind paying a mechanic for a thorough inspection. Always ensure that the person you are taking along isn’t an emotional buyer and will help you with a rational decision. A cheap car might make immediate financial sense but there could be a bag of issues hiding underneath that shiny metal. Make sure to take a look around with your friend and do not be afraid to walk away if you are not satisfied. Always remember that there are plenty of used cars available in the market.

2.Check under the bonnet
Even though you might not have all the knowledge of a trained mechanic but even then so you can carry out many simple checks to ensure that you are not buying a car that’s seen much neglect. The first place to check for an engine’s health is the oil dipstick. If it’s a petrol car and the oil colour on the dipstick is black then chances are it’s not been serviced for a long time. A healthy car’s oil will be golden brown in colour. Next up, open up the engine’s oil cap. If there is a creamy sludge over there then chances are that the head gasket will need a major repair. No matter how good the deal might sound, do not part with your money on this car. Also, check rubber hoses for any cracks or leaks. Switch the engine on and check if the radiator has a leak or oil is leaking from any joints. Also, check the exhaust at start up. If there is blue or black smoke emitting then you can lay a wager there is a serious issue with the car. Avoid it at all costs.

3.Taking the test drive
Always insist on taking a test drive. If the dealer or salesperson isn’t too keen on offering you a test drive then there is a rat somewhere. The test drive is the best way to find out a car’s health and if it has any serious issues with it. The engine should rev with ease all the way to its redline and should remain jerk-free. When you change gears ensure that it is smooth and that there are no grinding noises coming from the gearbox. The clutch shouldn’t be overtly tight or have play only at the top or end of its travel. This is a clear sign of worn out clutch assembly, an expense you’d avoid. When you brake, the car should not pull to the right or left side, a clear indication of misaligned wheels. The steering needs to be accurate as well. In general keep a close ear for any strange noises. And drive with the stereo switched off. If the dealer insists on listening to the stereo chances are he is trying to pull your attention away from a serious issue with the car.

4.Paper work and service history
Always insist on seeing the original documentation of the car. This is a very important area which many buyers tend to overlook, only to regret later. Always check the service bills, insurance papers and registration history to make sure that the dates and mileage on the car tally. Always ensure that the chassis and engine number mentioned on the papers match that under the car’s bonnet. If the odometer reading doesn’t match up to the age of the car or the engine and chassis numbers do not tally immediately walk away. This could be a stolen vehicle and will land you in big trouble soon. Don’t mind paying extra for a car which has its full service history record. It shows that the previous owner has taken good care of his set of wheels.

5.Bodywork
Pay close attention to the sides of the car for any ripples and small dents. Move away to a distant and take a look at the paintwork. Dodgy paintwork is a clear indication that the car is not all that it’s been made out to be. Do you see a slightly different tone for different body panels or does it seem it got the original factory paintwork? If there are any rough patches or inconsistent panel gaps chances are that this car has been in a shunt and suffered shoddy repairs at a local garage. Look around the door panels, remove the rubber lining and check for signs of paint re-spray and patchy welding marks. Ask the dealer why these are present. Haggle hard on such cars and work on getting a discount.

6.Interior quality
Does the interior’s wear and tear match the car’s age and mileage or has it been given a generous dose of polish to hide something? The car’s cabin are a dead giveaway about the previous owners. Beware of cars with low mileage but worn out interiors which have lost their sheen. Chances are that the odometer has been fiddled with to hide the car’s original mileage. Make sure that you remove the seat covers to check the condition of the original upholstery. Any cuts or burn marks are sure sign of abuse. Make sure all electrics work fine since they can be expensive to fix on most models. Also try and remove the floor mats to check if the original carpeting is in good shape. Incase there is any moisture on it chances are that the AC on the car has a leak somewhere. Haggle hard on such examples.

7.Don’t go in bad weather
Always make sure that you go to check a car when the light is good. Never ever go to inspect a car when it is dark or twilight when the sun is fading away. Avoid extreme weather condition days to go used car hunting. Snow, rainy or cloudy days are an absolute no as well. The poor light can hide patchwork paint or other serious issues. If the dealer insists that he will bring the car to you in the evening and sign the deal, the car has an issue which he is trying to hide under the fading light. Avoid such an example at all costs.

Are you looking to buy/sell one? Have a look at the latest pre-owned cars here

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