How to save money down the track, when buying a used car …

November 5th, 2010

Buying a used car can be dangerous business.How can you know if the owner is telling the truth and not just rattling off a list of pre-meditated one liners to make you think you are in for the ride of your life?

Answer, you can’t.

However, what you can do is jump online or pick up the phone, and have a few checks done on the car you are thinking about buying.

Buying a used car privately from someone you don’t know can be risky. There are no warranties meaning if anything goes wrong… you won’t get anything back.

Also not doing a full check-up on the vehicle could have you paying for expensive repairs, extra maintenance and even the possibility of having to finish off someone’s loan. Not cool.

Remember these 4 steps if you want to save your cash when buying a used car;

Step 1
Vehicle information check

Before you even head out to view the car, ask the owner for the rego/plate numbers and let the owner know you want to do a VIC (Vehicle Information Check).

By getting one of these done, you can see if there is any money owing on the car, whether the car has been stolen and any other outstanding details like damage history.

Owning a car that has been written-off will be expensive to fix and worst of all it could be dangerous to drive.It’s also a good idea to have a full description of your car on paper. I have read that people have found that their engine numbers don’t match up to the one on the certificate. It either means the car has had modifications and hasn’t been certified, meaning it’s not safe to drive, or there could be a possibility the car is stolen.

Make sure you can match up your VIN, engine and plate numbers immediately. You won’t be covered if you have to go out and buy a second car because this one gets taken off you.

Step 2
Service history

Usually the owner will have all the papers from mechanic visits, repair invoices and other receipts on service history.

Go through these and find any tell-tale signs of re-occurring dramas the car might have and decide whether or not this is an extra cost you want to be left with.

For example you might notice three visits to the garage for repairs on a broken gearbox. This is a major job in itself with the mechanic having to pull it out, take it apart, find the problem, fix it then put it all back together and install back underneath your car.

What if this month the gearbox decides to die on you?

That’s a nice big bill the size of all three repairs put together. That’s definitely something you could do without.

Having these papers is also a good sign that the owners keep up with regular maintenance.

Google is a brilliant place to go online and do some research on the car you’re interested in. There are tons of forums and reviews worth reading on all car makes and models and you could save yourself walking into a well-known ticking time bomb.

Step 3
Inspection & Test drive

If you know someone in the industry or have a friend that’s familiar with cars, take them with you to check out the car for sale.

Yes, it’s safer to meet a perfect stranger with a buddy, but the main reason is that looking at new cars always involves excitement and lots of talking. So while you do the fun stuff, have your friend do a once over on the car. They’ll pick up on the small details you might miss and probably remember all the things you said you wanted to ask the owner but somehow within the buying process you forgot.

Ask the owner if you can take the car for a quick test drive. If the owner isn’t happy to let you drive the car that should set some alarm bells going that something might not be quite right. It’s a good chance to test acceleration, gear changes, the brakes, blind spots, handling and just to see if you actually like the car.

Step 4

Get your offer in writing. It will help to avoid any disagreements that might come up later on. There might have been arrangements for a Roadworthy Certificate to be purchased by the existing owner for example.

Bring with you the Change of Ownership papers and have them filled out correctly right then and there. Get them to your nearest transport office right away. You can download and print these off the Internet for your State.

Also leave some room in your budget for Stamp Duty costs. This is the tax you need to pay on top of the full sale price.

Then, like with anything you buy, make sure you get a receipt for proof of purchase.

Buying a new car is heaps of fun. It might be a bit scary jumping into someone’s car, driving it and deciding if their car is the right one for you.

So just do your homework, relax a bit and have something interesting to talk about.

Chances are the owners are just as nervous as you and if they take a liking to you, they might be willing to negotiate a better price.

Happy hunting and don’t forget to take the checklist.

Bonus tip!
Try and buy a car before tax return time, and not too close around Christmas. If you need a car repair loan or financing, feel free to reach out to us.
Some sneaky sellers know you have more money at these times of the year so their asking price will be higher than usual.