Tips on How to Buy Used Cars

14/06/2018

Buying a used car is no joke. It costs a considerable amount of money, but unlike new cars, which come with a warranty, second-hand vehicles involve a little more risk.

But fret not, we've put together a few tips on how to buy used cars and avoid the pitfalls that usually come with it.

Consider a number of factors

Since a used car is a big-ticket item, you shouldn't purchase it outright without taking several details into account. These include:

Budget

How much can you afford? After all, you can't spend what you don't have. Plus, your budget will narrow down your options among our daily car auctions.

But don't just prepare a rough estimate. Prepare two budgets:

  • One for buying the used car.
  • A second one for fixing its issues (if there are any), which should ideally be around 20% of the purchase price.

For instance, if you buy the used car for $2,500, make sure you have at least around $500 for repairs to make your ride more roadworthy. Having some sort of auxiliary fund for initial repairs will help minimize your stress.

Purpose

Ask yourself: why are you buying the car? What will it be used for? Frequent driving within the city? If yes, then you probably won't need a muscle car or off-road truck.

If it's your son or daughter's first car, then aim for something affordable and has a great safety rating (more on this in a bit).

Fuel economy

Petrol is an ongoing expense that you need to consider, which is why you should look at how much fuel the prospective car consumes.

To get a better idea of details like annual fuel cost and fuel consumption (litres per 100km), search the car on the government's Green Vehicle Guide. You can compare up to three vehicles at a time.

Safety rating

You'll need to know how well a vehicle protects its driver in case of an accident. You can start by researching a used car's safety ratings over at the ANCAP website.

Insurance costs

How much you spend on car insurance varies, depending on its model.

Inspect the car

Don't buy a used car (or any vehicle for that matter) by merely looking at the provided figures. You'll need to scrutinize the car in person to make an informed decision. Here are a few suggestions on how to go about it:

Do it during the day

You need to see the car properly, warts and all. The only way to do this is when there's daylight. Avoid doing inspections when it's dark or raining, otherwise you risk overlooking dings, rust and various other defects.

Hire a mechanic

Unless you know your way around a car like a pro, consider hiring a mechanic to thoroughly look over the car for you. This may cost extra, but a professional will be able to easily spot any issues and give you their expert opinion whether the car is worth the purchase.

Look at the exteriors

Watch out for signs of an accident on such as:

  • Blemishes on the paint (e.g. differences in colour, bubbles).
  • Body panels aren't flush.
  • Doors and windows won't close properly.

Important: don't forget to inspect the windshield and windows for cracks, which may eventually worsen.

Check under the hood

Here are some of the things you should examine:

  • Pull out the dipstick and check the oil's level and colour. If it's dark brown or black, the oil needs to be changed. If it's milky-looking or grey, there's probably an engine problem.
  • Remove the radiator cap and check the coolant. The liquid should be clean and brightly coloured. A rusty or milky hue means there are engine issues.
  • Look at the battery for corrosion or any signs of damage.

Don't forget the tyres

While tyre condition is listed in the description, make sure you see it for yourself. Why? Because uneven wear means there is an issue with either the suspension or steering system.

Inspect the underside

Check for any sign of leaks under the car and take note of its colour. A red trickle may mean a transmission or power steering leak. Yellow may indicate a radiator issue.

Clear liquid means the car is fine; it's just condensation from the air conditioning.

What's inside also matters

Check the condition of the interiors for any wear and tear. See to it that you do the following:

  • Manipulate the controls for various systems (e.g. air conditioning, windshield wipers, signal lights) to see if they're in working order.
  • Inspect under the carpet for any signs of rust.

Start the engine

Since we have a showroom where we store our cars, you can inspect any vehicle you want to bid on. When you do, take the time to start the engine and let it idle, then pay close attention to the following:

  • Colour of the exhaust smoke, particularly after the engine heats up. For instance, grey smoke could mean burning oil or transmission fluid. A black emission may indicate the engine is burning too much fuel.
  • The sound the muffler makes. If it's too loud, it may have to be replaced.
  • Any unusual noises (e.g. rattling, humming) and where it's coming from.

Another tip: try moving the car backwards and forwards even while in the premises

Ensure the paperwork is in order

It's not just the car you need to inspect; you also need to evaluate the documents that come with it. Some recommendations:

  • Don't settle for photocopies. Get the original versions of all the documents.
  • Match the car's registration information with other essential details. This includes the driver's licence, VIN number, manufacture date, engine number, and rego plates. If the information doesn't match, ask why.
  • Ask for a roadworthy certificate. The rules vary, depending on the state. In ACT, for example, you'll need one when ownership is transferred and the car is over six years old (here are the other situations that require it).

Final word

ALLBIDS runs dozens of online car auctions daily and thousands each year. We provide all buyers layers of protection, which means you can bid with confidence. So look for the right car at ALLBIDS today.

If you want to sell your car, you can also use ALLBIDS to maximise your return, but without the hassle. Give us a quick phone call, message or chat to find out how.