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Positive Used Car Buyer’s Guide

Filed under Information Centre

Buying a used vehicle comes with a host of concerns.

Reduce those concerns and avoid future issues by checking the following when you inspect a used vehicle:

Tyres:

Check wear indicators (raised ridges running across the tread pattern). If flush with the tread pattern, the tyres need replacing. The minimum tread depth in most Australian states is 1.5mm.

Engine:

1: When cold, listen carefully to how it starts, it should not struggle or be delayed.

2: With the engine off, check the oil dipstick. The oil should be correctly filled and not too dirty. Note that blacker oil is normal in diesels.

3: Check the engine belts are not frayed or damaged.

4: Check for any coolant (usually a green colour) or other stains or spills on engine.

*Ideally, you want to see a clean, well maintained engine bay.

Bodywork:

1: Check all doors, windows, bonnet and boot open and close correctly.

2: Check panel gaps. Gaps between body panels should be straight and even. Uneven gaps can indicate previous accident damage.

3: Scratches / faded paint can be expensive to fix, view the car in daylight to make sure it’s in good condition.

4: Scratch ‘water test’. Splash water over a scratch, if not visible when wet, it indicates a clear coat scratch which usually buff out with polish.

Interior:

1: Make sure seat adjustments, seatbelts and upholstery is working / in good condition.

2: Check for cracks in plastic surfaces, eg: dashboard.

Documentation:

1: Owner’s manual: Make sure the matching owner’s manual is with the vehicle. Most vehicles include an extra Australian booklet for interior gadgets.

2: Service history: Ideally, a full, documented service history with dates, noting work that was completed. All work should have been undertaken by a qualified mechanic.

3: VIN check: Purchase a PPSR online to make sure there’s no finance owing on the vehicle and it has never been reported stolen or written off.

Test Drive:

1: Listen to acceleration, it should be smooth without noticeable vibrations / stuttering.

2: Make sure the brakes aren’t squeaking - indicates they need replacing.

3: If safe, check driver assist features like emergency braking, lane departure warning and cruise control.

4: Make sure the handbrake holds the vehicle, transmission / gearbox work smoothly.

Finance:

When you start noticing signs that you need an upgrade, a quality second-hand car can be a good option. If the vehicle you’re looking at does not pass the majority of the above checks, consider a better condition example. This can result in years of trouble free motoring and with less repair costs.

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