Buying a used car can be one of those dreaded tasks for many people. There’s always that nagging fear that you’ll end up buying a lemon, or be made to feel a fool by someone who knows a lot more about cars than you do.

Well, it doesn’t have to be an awful experience if you follow a few simple steps first:

Do some swotting up
Forearmed is forewarned. No subject seems that hard once you know a few facts and it’s exactly the same with buying a used car. Thank goodness for the internet! It’s made things so much easier, as you can read up on all sorts of information; from the history of individual models, to reviews of different vehicles, to helping you get an idea of what price you should expect to pay for any particular car. Some websites even have tools to help you choose which car is right for your needs. This is really handy, as they may suggest a car you’d never thought of before. Once you’ve decided on a car (or cars) that’s right for you, you’ll feel a lot better about taking on a dealer or individual seller.

Check the odometer reading
Once you actually start looking, the number one question for any used car buyer should be; how many km’s are there on the clock? This is because all vehicles seem to have a collapse point, where metal fatigue takes over and things start to go wrong one after another. The difficulty is in finding this point, as all models are different. As a general rule however; the higher the odometer reading, the more likely the vehicle is to start developing problems. And don’t forget; the average car covers between 10 and 15,000 km per year, so don’t be too surprised to see some big numbers on the clock of an older car.

Vehicle age
Equally important is knowing when the car was manufactured. If it was in the last five to ten years then sourcing parts and getting servicing done should be a lot easier and cheaper. Older cars may have been built to last longer but it’s a lot harder to find replacement parts and / or the mechanics who can install them. Also, like us, cars age so even if a vehicle has relatively low mileage for its age – it is still an old car and so will never run like a new one.

Everyone wants to stay safe on the road and so there are several sites online where you can check how the car you’re looking at fared in independent testing. ANCAP and Euro-NCAP let you see how many safety stars new cars earned, while shows the results from millions of police-reported accidents involving used cars throughout Australia and New Zealand over the last twenty years. While not a definitive answer, these sites will give you a fair idea of the safety record of any car you’re looking at.

Always test drive
You can read up as much as you like about a car, but only a test drive will let you know how any vehicle in particular is running. Test it out with a few trials like hill starts, turning circle, sudden braking and speed of acceleration. If it’s sluggish or makes strange noises during any of its tasks, forget about it and start looking again. It’s just not worth taking on a car that can’t do what you want it to. There are plenty of used cars out there; you’ll find your one sooner or later.

Check the vehicle history
Before you buy it’s always a good idea to check out the history of your vehicle. Ask about the vehicle’s service history (the more regular the better) and the ownership history (a lot of owners in a short time might indicate some issues). And particularly if you’re buying privately, check if there is any money owing on the car. You can do this online for a small fee using the Personal Property Securities Register.

So there you go – that should help start you on your journey to find the perfect used car. If you can, get someone with engine oil in their veins to go along with you to look at a car you like or, if you’re willing to shell out a few bucks, take a likely prospect along to a VTNZ station to get a pre-purchase inspection done.

If you’re still a bit hazy on buying a car from someone at a market or from a site like Trade Me, just go to a dealer. While you will probably end up paying a bit more for your car, you have got someone you can go back to if things go wrong with your car.

Posted by tower