You need check and recheck numerous aspects before zeroing in on a car. You don’t want your ‘new secondhand car’ to groan and grumble for repairs within a few days of purchasing it, do you? After all, you are buying a car to add comfort to your life and the decision to buy a car (yes, even a second-hand one) is a huge step- emotionally and financially. You might even rely on a used car loan to pay for it and getting a raw deal can be heartbreaking. So here is a list of pointers to keep in mind when you go used car hunting.
- If you are fretful about handling the process of buying a used car (research dealers, price and trends, shortlisting cars, giving the vehicle a thorough once-over, checking the documents and negotiating among others), we suggest you take someone who is knowledgeable about these things.
- Do your homework about the dealer or establishment or even individual you are going to visit. Truly, smartphones and Google have made life much easier, haven’t they? You must be familiar with the clichéd used car sales person in ads and cinema, successfully selling tin-pots camouflaged as glossy rides.
- If the dealer is genuine, he would never hurry you and answer all your queries patiently. You can even enquire at showrooms as almost all key automobile brands in India has a Certified Pre-Owned Car database. Even though the cost can be more than an uncertified seller, you have a few benefits that entails an extended warranty.
Nobody can guarantee that any secondhand car will be ‘flawless’ because it all depends on how old the vehicle actually is and how well the previous owner(s) took care of it. Still you can save yourself the hassle of frequent garage visits and deep disappointment if you take the time to check the factors listed below.
Car outer body checklist:
- Is the paint clean and glossy? Is it chipped or scratched in places? Is the clear coat peeling off?
- Is the sheet metal starting to rust here and there? How many dents and bends are there?
- Is the glass clear and crackles? Are there cuts, scrapes or chips on the windshield?
- Are there loose parts in the car trim?
- And most importantly, how good do the tires look? Ask the seller when was the last time he had the tires changed.
Beneath the hood of the car:
- Even if you are no mechanical engineer, you can make out if the underhood is well-maintained.
- Check if the fuel filters and spark plug wires look new.
- Are battery terminals sparkling and fitted? Are the belts and hoses splintered and threadbare?
- As for oil dipstick, if the oil has a light tawny color to it, it means it has been changed recently.
- One way to know if the brake fluid is new is to check its color. If it is in yellow tones, it is new and if the fluid has become dark, it is not changed in recent times.
Inside the vehicle:
- How clean and intact are the car seats, rubber sheets and carpets?
- Are there any visible cracks and ruptures on the dashboard and instrument panel?
- How about the headliner and sun screens?
- Take a close look at the pedals and steering wheel. How worn are they and do they somewhat correspond to the distance driven?
How well does it start?
- Start the car engine when it is ‘cold’. Does it take longer than, say, 5 seconds? Does it make weird noises? Well!
- Check all the lights (inside and outside), indicators, washers, power locks, wipers and windows.
- How easily can you adjust the mirrors and most importantly, how firm are the brakes?
Test driving gives away what the dealer might have ‘forgotten’ to mention:
- Do the odometer and speedometer read well?
- Can you accelerate the vehicle effortlessly and are reversing and turning smooth?
- Don’t forget to test drive on highways too.
- Even the gentlest application of brakes must decelerate the car at once.
After the test drive:
- Once you are done with the test drive, leave the car in idle position and check the underhood. Do you see thick puffs of smoke or strange smells?
- Another giveaway to the car’s poor condition (despite the shiny exterior) is the auto trans fluid level. It should be crimson (and not dark brown) and shouldn’t give off burnt smell.
- Give the car a final check before leaving and don’t forget to go through the maintenance documents.
Do not have unrealistic expectations from a secondhand car or dealer/seller, if you have decided to buy one. Accept the fact that it won’t be as good as a new one. Compare the price and possible glitches mentioned above, and make a wise decision. Think practicality and utility, especially if you are relying on secondhand auto loans.