Positive Used Car Buyer’s Guide
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:
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.
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.
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.
1: Make sure seat adjustments, seatbelts and upholstery is working / in good condition.
2: Check for cracks in plastic surfaces, eg: dashboard.
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.
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.
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.