Second-hand smarts: Tips for buying a used car

Second hand smarts Tips for buying a used car

By Amy Bradney-George
14 January 2009

Used cars can be a financial blessing or a beast of burden if a personal loan is taken out for a dodgy deal. But insurance companies like the National Roads and Motorists’ Authority (NRMA) and the Royal Automobile Club Queensland (RACQ) report that a second-hand car is not a problem, so long as you know what you’re looking for.

As for the safety of the actual cars, RACQ vehicle technologies manager Steve Spalding has said research has found there are safe cars on the used market.

“The latest Used Car Safety Ratings results show second-hand vehicles providing a high level of crash protection are available at affordable prices. Safety just needs to be factored in when making the purchasing decision.”


Image by Dr. Keats

To help make the most out of your personal loan, here are some tips to guide you to a safe second-hand car purchase.

1. Money matters

The price range you settle on will help narrow down the types of cars you’re looking for, and also speed up the process of getting what you want. It’s worthwhile arranging a car loan or personal loan before looking at cars to cement your financial decision. Plus, good deals will be snapped up fast and if the money’s already available then securing the deal will be a lot easier for everyone.

2. Shop around

Check out a few different places before settling on a car. Used car dealerships, newspapers, trade papers and websites provide a good cross-section of the deals available and you’re bound to find at least one car you like by looking around. Searching in a variety of different places will help you develop a price gauge of what’s on the market and vehicles that represent true value for money.

3. Try before you buy

Always go to inspect your car in person and take it for a test drive before buying. Sometimes a good deal can be marred by rust, broken lights, bad brakes, fuel consumption or any number of other problems. Many insurance companies offer vehicle inspection services, and it’s definitely a smart move to take a friend along with you for an extra set of eyes.

4. Hidden history?

If a prospective car seller doesn’t have the vehicles history on hand, make sure you do a vehicle check before signing away. Stolen or damaged cars can lead to lost money and legal problems down the track. Further problems could arise if the seller still owes money on the car when you buy it. A number of insurance companies, auto mechanics and online services provide reliable vehicle checks and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

5. Modifications

Car enthusiasts might modify a car long before they think of selling, but sometimes these changes are not legal. In the last few years there have been a number of changes to what features are legal on a car, so something acceptable five years ago may now be considered a dangerous addition. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller about modifications and check the state and national laws for any alterations.

6. The contract

Ask for a copy of the contract so that you can go through it thoroughly before agreeing to the terms and conditions of the sale. A car is an investment and it’s important to read and understand all legally binding contracts before you invest in anything of value.

7. Review registration papers

Check the registration to see when it expires and which state it is registered in. This information may be in the listing details for a car, but double-check anyway for surety and peace of mind. It’s no use driving a Victorian-registered car in New South Wales if you don’t have the proper paperwork filled out.

8. Car servicing

Regular servicing is an important factor in the longevity of any vehicle, old or new. Finding out how often a car has been serviced will not only indicate whether there is likely to be structural and technical problems, but could also suggest how regularly you need to service the car. This information should be in an owner’s manual, but if there isn’t one available for the car then the NRMA website suggests a service every 6 months, or every 10,000 kilometres (which ever you reach first).

When purchasing a second-hand vehicle figure out what works best for you. Always shop around for the best deals and keep tips like these in mind for more financial safety in your buy.

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