Seven golden rules for buying a used car

Updated: Jan 11 2014, 23:21pm hrs
Used carWhile a test drive reveals a lot about a car, nothing compares to a thorough inspection by a professional.
The biggest advantage of buying a used car is that you can buy a bigger and better car for the same money, compared to a new one. And with cars improving every successive generation, there shouldnt be too many issues to deal with in second-hand cars these days. To simplify things, we have broken up the used car buying process into seven golden principles that will keep you in good stead no matter what car you want to buy. Read on and you will find the used car that is just right.

Know the risk

When buying a used car, you have three options that you can choose from. There is the organised sector which includes big independent players like Mahindra First Choice and the car manufacturers own used car entities like Maruti True Value and Toyota U Trust, with outlets at their respective showrooms.

Buying a new car check prices

Buy a car here and youre assured that the car hasnt been in any accident and has gone through proper checks. Although prices are slightly higher here than at other used car dealers, you are most likely to get an engine and gearbox warranty. Then there is the unorganised sector comprising small used car sellers. You dont have the same peace of mind as in the organised sector but prices are comparatively lower. Theres more risk but greater rewards as wellthere isnt any warranty on offer and its the buyers ability to gauge the car that plays an important role here. Finally, you could buy from an individual seller. You stand to get the best deal here, since it eliminates the middle man, but then there is the hassle of getting the paperwork done on your own.

Always check a cars paperwork

It sounds rather boring and it is, but a thorough check of the paperwork is a must. This will expose possible outstanding finance or accident write-offs on insurance. Some of the documents that a seller should hand over to the buyer are the original delivery note of the car, the owners manual, RTO tax certificate and the insurance papers.

Driving the point home

No matter what, always drive the car you are interested in as well as other examples so you can compare. And dont just drive it around the corner for a few minutes, but drive it for as long as you can and over varied surfaces if possible because you will need to pay attention to a lot of different things. Once you drive a few cars, you will be able to pick up the subtle differences between them and pick the best.

Technical inspection

While a test drive reveals a lot, nothing compares to a thorough inspection by a professional. Paying a workshop to get an inspection done should be considered a must do investment and most used car dealers or individual sellers shouldnt have a problem with this, unless they want to hide something.

Compare prices and bargain hard

Visit a lot of different used car sellers and find a car that suits your needs best. Once youve done that, its time for price negotiations. Search through the classifieds in the papers and look for cars similar to the one you are interested in to set a benchmark price.

Lifetime costs

Buying a used car isnt just a one-time investment. Owning a car involves running costs for fuel and maintenance as well, so, these are also to be looked at. A surprisingly low price may not turn out to be as much of a bargain. Luxury cars are a good example of exactly this. For example, you can buy a five-year-old BMW 3-series diesel for as little as R11 lakh, which is fantastic value for money. But consider the servicing costs. An oil and oil filter change costs upwards of R16,000 while a new fuel filter costs R25,280!

Money matters

Getting ripped off, unfortunately, is a real possibility when buying a used car, especially if you dont invest a day or two doing the due diligence. To ascertain the sellers identity, ask for a phone number and an address. Cash transactions are a strict no-no, rather keep everything on record and pay the seller either by cheque or a demand draft. Decline any offers by the seller for a quick cash deal. Somebody may be waiting to offload a stolen car on you.

Follow these tips and you shouldnt have anything to worry about. If there is even a shadow of a doubt, walk away. If a deal appears too good to be true, that may just be the case. Treat any such offers with a healthy dose of suspicion. Nobody is going to let you eat into their profit. So there is no point risking you hard earned money if you are not 100% sure. Evaluate all pros and cons before putting down your money.