Buying a Used Car for the New Year

When the time comes to purchase a vehicle, looking to the used car market will reveal bargain buys and gems. It also means you’ll be able to buy more car for less money. With due diligence, you can make a fantastic choice of a new-to-you vehicle for many years of headache-free motoring.

We’ve previously outlined the list of areas to inspect in our Ultimate Used Car Buying Checklist. In this article, we’d like to arm you with tips and tricks to narrow your car search and simplify the buying process.

What do you need to know about buying a used car right now?

#1: Budget  Needs

Before you even set your foot in a used car dealer’s showroom, you need to know what your car-buying budget is. Simply put, you can’t go shopping for groceries without knowing how much money you have in your pocket… Be honest with yourself. There’s no point in overstretching your finances just to drive a slightly more flashy used car or one with a sports package. Your bank can assist you with a pre-approved car finance loan. Or, you can do homework on the bank website’s car loan calculator to work out just what you can comfortably afford to pay each month.

Knowing what you can afford means you can draw up a budget. This should include running costs, guestimated fuel costs, car insurance costs, servicing and possible repairs.

You don’t want to end up paying monthly for a car that you can’t even enjoy driving for being too broke to even fuel it up… From our experience helping thousands of car buying people find the best cars for their needs – and our own needs – don’t exceed more than 30-percent of your income on car payments. That’s the “golden ratio.”

#2: Lifestyle Needs

Your lifestyle is a great determinant of your car type. Do you need a bakkie for moving loads? Towing caravans or trailers? A family carrier to regularly move 6 or more people? Off-road ruggedness? No matter your preference and needs, you’ll find a suitable one at just about every price point imaginable.

Buyers Guide and Tips for Buying your First Used Car

Armed with a reasonable guideline as to how much you can spend to buy a car, visit your city’s most reputable used car dealers to test drive as many cars in your budget as you can. Keeping an open mind about the different car brands and car models will enable you to make a decision as objectively as possible on the cars you want to add to your shortlist. Learn as much about the importance of a car history report and verifiable vehicle history: these will help you buy the best used car later.

Of course, nothing beats a good test drive to reveal everything about a car’s condition. Remember, the purpose of a test drive is to evaluate a vehicle to identify any problem areas.

  • Upon startup, listen carefully to the engine as it warms up through the start-up phase.
  • Check the dashboard for any warning lights that may appear during your test drive.
  • Check all lights to make sure they work, even foglights.
  • You don’t need to drive a car very fast to gauge its faults or qualities: pulling away from a stop and gently accelerating will show up the car’s clutch, engine response, and any problems with the suspension.
  • Going over an uneven piece of road is better than a perfectly new road surface: you’re able to feel how the car moves over the pitted road to evaluate how its suspension components react.
  • Testing the brakes is important: find a quiet section of the road and slam on the brakes as hard as you can from 60km/h to a stop. If the vehicle aggressively pulls to the left or right of the road despite you keeping it in a straight line will identify any worn suspension items.
  • Park the vehicle on an incline and use the handbrake. Test whether the car rolls back at all.
  • Do also check that the aircon works: put it on to its coldest setting and set the fan speed to its fastest. If it cools the interior of the car quickly without any overtly loud noises from the compressor in the engine bay, it is in good working order. If it doesn’t cool the cabin and the seller is adamant that it is gassed up, it is a sign of a faulty aircon.

Secret to Used car Buying: Research, Research, Research

Fancy yourself an armchair detective? Put your skills to the test by evaluating a used car’s vehicle history. After a few calls to workshops and dealers listed in its service history paperwork, you should have a fair idea of the type of life your car’s led before it ended up parked on the used car dealer’s lot.If the vehicle history seems sketchy, simply walk away. With nearly 100,000 used cars for sale around South Africa, you’re bound to find your dream car in better condition in just a few more taps on your smartphone’s screen and a few more days of careful searching. Settling isn’t something that should be done when it comes to used cars… They can quickly bite you back with expensive, hidden repair bills!

In our experience, taking your favourite used car for an independent test at an AA/Dekra Roadworthy Station will reveal just what sort of headaches you’re likely to expect from your new-to-you car before you actually buy it. Those technicians see dozens of cars pass through daily and have a much better idea of what to look out for than you when it comes to used cars. Asking a reliable mechanic to evaluate a used car for you before you buy it is also a means of reducing the risk of buying a damaged or faulty car. Their services – of a few hundred Rands – will far outweigh the cost of replacing a broken aircon unit, repairing a misfiring engine, or a damaged electrical wiring harness.

Be safe out there. Double-check and then triple-check – everything!

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