Tips and advice on buying a used car

Don’t get caught out!

First step:
First of all, when you go to purchase a used car, it’s good to remember that you are really buying kilometers.
Things to consider: What do you want out of your second hand car? Looks and colour are nice, but in the end you’ll be paying extra if you don’t think about economy, reliability, cost of repairs and servicing, registration and insurance. It’s best to get the latest model car possible with the least amount of kilometers on it. Make sure that the car is going to suit you – think about if you want a manual or automatic, a big car with power, or room for kids, or can you make do with a lighter, more economical car which won’t go through brakes and fuel as quickly as a larger car. Make sure you can afford the car before you buy it, and you should be able to set aside some money to get it serviced at least every 6 months, and with an older car, probably more often – about every 4 months, as things go wrong which the average person doesn’t notice until it’s too late and something major needs to be done (e.g. Loss of coolant which then could cause head gasket failure if overheated .or it may need a radiator,water pump or hoses to be repaired). Insurance – make sure you check the insurance cost. Sometimes older vehicles are more expensive to insure. Performance cars are not cheap to insure. Sometimes elderly people may have owned the vehicle, which means that you’ll have to pay more rego as pensioners get a reduced rate from the RTA which you will have to make up when you register the change of ownership. Beware so-called warranties, because many of them are really dodgy and those giving the warranty try their best to not pay for anything in my experience.
Good car makes for reliability are toyota, honda, nissan. Most european car makes are more expensive to maintain in australia, though some are very good cars.

Second step:

Do your research to find the best cars for you. There are probably many cars for sale out there which would suit you – more flexibility will help you get a good car for a good price. Redbook gives prices, and specs (economy, performance).

Third step:
Go shopping: Good places to search are: post, or your local newspaper if you live in a small town.
Talk to the owner.
Questions to ask:
– How many kilometers has the car done? It’s always better to get a car that has lower kilometers to start with. Remember that you’re really buying kilometers.
– How regularly has it been serviced? Does it have a logbook? Look for a car which has had regular services done (with a logbook) as this makes a massive difference to the longevity of the vehicle.
– When was the timing belt done last? If the car is due for a timing belt, this is a reasonably major expense at the cost of the new owner in the near future.
– Has the car been in an accident?
– When does the rego expire?
– Is the owner aware of any problems with the car?

Fourth step:
Check the car: get a car which is clean and tidy, preferably one which has been garaged as the interior and the paintwork will be a lot better.
Check for rust – main places to check are around the windscreen, bottom of the front mudguards, around the sills, near the bottom of the doors. If you see rust in any of these areas, it really should be checked further on a car hoist.
Check car visibility – can you see well?
Check that the airconditioning and heater controls work.
Before bringing it to the mechanic, check if there are any oil leaks underneath the car, that the tyres are good, that it has a decent amount of rego left on it (unless of course the price has been dropped accordingly). Check that the coolant in the radiator or coolant bottle is clean (it should usually be a transparent green or red), not just rusty water.
It’s always good to take the car to your mechanic to have it checked so that the mechanic can check the brakes, engine and check that the car hasn’t been in a major crash.
Check that there is a jack and spare tire in the car, that the gauges work correctly, that the transmission fluid is clean, and that the transmission operates correctly, that the clutch doesn’t slip.
Test drive the car:
– Listen for weird noises coming from the car: vibrations (tyre balance, tail shaft out of balance, engine mounts can cause vibrations too), clunks, noises, bangs, exhaust noises.
– Handling – make sure that the steering doesn’t feel floppy, but firm.
– Performance: acceleration. If it doesn’t have good performance, it might have a problem.
– Check that the speedo & odometer work correctly

Before you purchase a car, don’t make the mistake of not getting it checked by your mechanic first. I’ve had so many people over the years buy a car and then bring it in to get it checked, and they don’t realise how bad the mechanical workings were and that their warranty meant nothing. Some cars have been joined together using the “cut and shut” method in which two halves have been welded together, which the average person wouldn’t be able to pick up. The mechanic can usually tell if the car has been repaired from a smash.
The mechanic should check:

  • Check the engine is running well
  • Oil leaks
  • Clutch
  • Gear box
  • Check fault codes on data scanner, that the oxygen sensor and other sensors are working correctly, and check fault codes.
  • Check the ABS brakes
  • Airbag system are ok
  • Suspension, shock absorbers
  • CV boots
  • Tie rod ends
  • battery
  • Steering rack
  • Power steering pumps
  • Noises
  • Other leaks
  • Hoses

Engine fumes
Gas analyser – to check the efficiency of the engine.
General safety (lights, brakes, suspension etc)

At Shire Tune and Service we can perform a thorough check for you in about an hour and a half – $132.

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