When you’re buying a used car, there’s a lot of money at stake — and the last thing you want to do is spend a whole lot of cash and end up with an unreliable car. But, armed with these tips and our second hand car buyer’s checklist, it’s easier than you think.
Baby or sporty?
Before you even set foot in a showroom, it’s vital you know what you want from your car. Are you looking for economy or extravagance? practicality or fun? Do you need ample space for the kids’ car seats, or will a nippy little two-seater do the job? Decide which features are nice to have in an ideal world and which are non-negotiable. Is your heart set on a luxurious leather interior, or are you happy to compromise?
Don’t forget running costs when buying a used car
Work out how much you’re willing to spend on servicing, insurance and fuel — and then find out how much those things are likely to cost depending on which car you buy.
Rev up research
When buying a used car, you also need to have an idea of the value of the car. Valuation sites like book-value.co.za and carzar.co.za are great — use them to get a general indication of the value of a car, and CarZar will even help you sell or buy a used car. With the facts at your fingertips, it’ll be easier to stick to your budget.
Choose a seller
Buying privately can save you a tidy sum because the seller is more likely to want a quick sale and the cost of a shiny showroom won’t be factored into the price. But private sales carry the greatest risk.
If you’re set on buying a used car privately, here are some tips to make sure you stay safe and you end up with a good deal:
- Go to see the car during the day and in good weather, so you can look for dents, rust, scratches and uneven paintwork that could hide other problems.
- Always meet somewhere safe and public and don’t go alone.
- If you’re unsure of what you’re looking for, take someone along who can give good advice.
- Ask for the full service history, look for signs of recurring faults and request proof of ownership.
Buying from a dealer costs more, but you’re often protected by a warranty and car checks will be done. Choose an established firm with a good reputation, or go on the recommendation of a friend.
Get a bargain
Haggling may not come naturally, but don’t let that put you off. Research shows that car buyers often pay about R10 000 less than the sticker price — and all it takes is a bit of savvy negotiation.
If you find money talk especially daunting, focus on the additional extras that would make the deal more attractive to you. An extended warranty or a full tank of fuel can easily be thrown into the bargain. And remember: you’re there to make a deal, not a friend, so don’t be afraid of asking for what you want.
A second hand car buyer’s checklist
- Know the car’s market value before you consider buying.
- Before you buy, have the car independently checked by a mechanic or vehicle testing company (the AA offers this and other services at a discount to members — see aa.co.za).
- Don’t be hurried when inspecting the car’s bodywork, bumpers, lights, fixings and trim for signs of damage.
- Make sure the car’s radio, windows, lights and any other gadgets are in full working order.
- Test drive the car on a variety of roads for at least 15 km.
- Check the tyre tread — if any of the treads are under 1.6 mm, the tyres will need to be replaced, which can add a whole lot onto the costs.
- Get insurance quotes before committing to a purchase.