8 Things to Look for When Buying a Used Car

August 25, 2021

Ready to buy a used car? Here are 8 things to look for.

Regardless of whether you buy a used car from a dealer or private seller, here is a checklist for buying a used car in South Africa.  

buy a used car

The Service History Will Show A Lot

The service history is a tell-all about the vehicle as it can give you valuable insight into the used car. The service history will tell you what repairs it has gone through, the maintenance as well as how the previous owner cared and drove it. This can then tell you what future costs, you could expect.

Get an HPI check on the vehicle by running the VIN through an HPI service. This report will tell you whether accident history, finance history, mileage history and more.

The Budget Check

This may seem like common sense, but you will be surprised about how many people stretch their budget more than they can when buying a new or used car.  

Not only do you need to factor in the monthly instalments, but also running costs. The cost of fuel, parts, tyres etc.all need to be factored in. This is why sticking to a budget is a must and you can avoid regretting your used car buy.

How Many Miles Are on the Clock

Always check the car mileage as this will show how much wear it has gone through and how it relates to the age of the vehicle. Divide the number of KMs by the vehicle’s age to find the average. A used car will usually do between 15 000 and 20 000km per year.  

A car with high mileage will be cheaper but will have more wear. If a new model has a high mileage then the car probably wasn’t driven well and could prove to be a bad buy. You will need to find a balance between age and mileage. It could be worth spending a little more and getting a low mileage used car.

Dents,Rust, Frame and Everything Else

Inspect the outside of the vehicle thoroughly. Look for any dents, paint chips and ensure the panels line up. Small issues can be fixed, but it might be best to walk away from the deal if there are any big issues.

Next, check the inside. Check that electrical components are working, that the upholstery is in good condition, the windows work and so on. These could be expensive to fix, so you will need to weigh up if it is worth it.

Inspect the Engine

Pop the hood and take a look. Make sure that there is nothing out of the ordinary like corrosion, fluid leaks, cracked belts and so on. Also, check the oil and transmission dipsticks for any discolouration. Transmission fluid will be pink or red and oil will be light brown.  

Give the Tyres a Once Over

Tyres are expensive to replace, so it is best to find a used car that still has life left in the tyres. Check that the tyre tread is even on all four tyres as this will show that the alignment is correct and that the car hasn’t been driven badly.  

Never Skip the Test Drive 

It doesn’t matter whether you are buying a car from a dealer or a private seller, always test drive.

On a test drive, test everything. Test the acceleration, smoothness of the gearbox, braking and suspension. Test all the inside components and ensure they are working.

Drive the car on both quiet roads and on the highway. You will be able to find out how the car handles and if there are any strange noises.

A True Inspection

If you have found the used car you want to buy, then have it inspected by an independent mechanic. A mechanic will spot any underlying issues or something that could become a costly future issue.  

It will cost money to have a mechanic to check the car, but rather spend money on this now than sit with a used car that could end up costing you more.

Buying a used car is exciting, but knowing what to check when buying a used car from a dealer or a private seller, will help you to avoid buying a dud and could even save you money.

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