Tips for buying a reliable used car

Tips for buying a reliable used car

On any given day there are millions of cars waiting to be sold, but not all of them are created equal.



Published: Thu 5 Dec 2013, 4:25 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:01 AM

Buying a used can be a risk if you do not know what to look for. If you rush into a purchase it could end up a costly lesson. Here are Khaleej Times tips for buying a reliable used car.


1. Take a closer look.
It seems obvious but buyers often fall in love with a particular car and can become blind to its faults. Walk around the car and check for rust, dents and other damage. Chipped paint or crunched fuel lines could indicate past damage repairs. Make sure the car is on level ground and then look at the tires; they are your most important safety feature. If the tires have cracks they will need to be replaced immediately.


2. Take the car for a spin
Do not just leisurely drive around the block and back. Make sure you put the car through its paces on the highway. Look for problems with steering, brakes, suspension and transmission shift speeds. Any issues with the way the car drives are immediate red flags. Before you start your test drive, check the mileage. Experts say you should look for a car that has a mileage below 80,000 miles or 130,000 kilometres, but low mileage does not necessarily mean it will be a risk free purchase. Also check that the radio, air conditioner and heater and indoor lights are working. It can be easy to overlook these minor troubles but they could be costly to repair and are sometimes signs of other, more expensive problems. Many people also forget to check inside the trunk of the car for damage.

3. Ask a lot of questions
If you are buying from a used car dealership or lot, ask where they got the car from and if it was ever a rental. Both salesmen and private owners may have records of service and maintenance history, which can give you a better idea of what you are buying. If it is a private owner, ask why them why they are selling the car. Ask how many previous owners the car has had. Use your instincts, if you think they are withholding information or lying, simply walk away.

4. Buy from the original or second owner


As long as the car has not been in a wreck or the owner has seriously neglected maintenance, you are more likely to get a reliable car if you buy from the original or second owner.

5. Pay more at a dealership or lot for the security of a warranty.


While you might not get a great deal, you can drive away with confidence that if anything is mechanically wrong with the car the dealership will pay a portion of the repair costs or, depending on your policy, replace the parts. Make sure you check the terms of the warranty carefully, including when it expires and what specific parts are included.

6. Check the fluids


It is important to check the car’s fluids to see how well the owner looks after the car and to avoid buying something that will require expensive repairs. Brake fluid should be clear or a yellowish colour, but will most likely be a light brown. Transmission fluid should be clear. Be cautious of any fluids that look too dark or dirty. Buyers should also check the engine coolant. The fluid should never be a rusty colour. Rust means the radiator, heater core or water pump will need to be repaired sometime in the near future.

7. Do your research


Research the make and year of the car online. There is a wealth of information out there for prospective buyers and it will help you eliminate makes and years that have had bad service reputations. Our favourite websites are Kelley Bluebook http://www.kbb.com/ and consumerreports.org. Researching online will also help you get an idea of what the value of the car is, so you do not pay too much for it. Many dealerships have online inventories. Arm yourself with some knowledge rather than walk into a used car dealership with no clear ideas. Do not make yourself prey to clever salesmanship.

8. Get a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic.


Nothing beats having an independent professional look over the car. They can tell you exactly what is wrong with the car and what parts are likely to need replacing in the next two years. They will also help you figure out the market value of the car, the real mileage of the vehicle in case it has been altered, and generally help you avoid a terrible case of buyer’s regret.


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