There are pros and cons to buying a used car. The main ‘pro’ being that it is far kinder to your wallet in terms of initial outlay than going for a brand-new vehicle. The main ‘con’ is that there can be risks involved and if you’re not careful you could end up with less than you bargained for. With our recent series of articles pertaining to electric vehicles and their long term running costs savings, there is now also a realistic and viable 3rd option to consider too.
Check the mileage
In general, it’s considered that the lower the mileage on the car, the better. If there’s a car going with 150,000 miles on it, it may have a great price tag attached but that’s because there is perhaps less life left in the engine. That said, some engines, if well maintained, can go way beyond the 200,000 mile mark now and with enhines also being realistic to replace, or have rebuilt, even the doomsday scenario needn’t be a major problem, so long as you make provision for it.
You need to consider your lifestyle; if you drive a long distance to work every day then you want a car with fewer miles already on it as you’ll be racking up the miles yourself pretty quickly and you want your car to last as long as possible, however if you only tend to make shorter journeys, a well-maintained car with a higher mileage could be just fine for you.
It’s also worth mentioning that some cars actually benefit from some, rather than very occasional use (the majority of wear taking place in an engine at the point of starting up…The theory being that oil is allowed to drain back to the sump, there is a lot more frictional activity between components).
Check the engine, gearbox and clutch
It’s essential that you check for any leaks in the engine and if the exhaust produces any dark smoke (remember, blue smoke normally suggest burning oil). You may also want to test the biting point of the clutch and test how smoothly the gears change, including when hot (not forgetting reverse). If there are any problems with the above, get an expert to take a look for you before you purchase the car to see what the exact problem is and how much it will cost to fix it.
This one is pretty obvious, but check for any kerbing on the wheels, scratches on the paintwork, or any dents. With the latter two, if they aren’t too bad then you can get them fixed for a small cost, and make sure you get a good deal from the dealer with regards to these – you don’t want to pay for the car then pay more for fixing dents you didn’t negotiate beforehand. With this in mind, we recommend you always visit the car in broad daylight and in good weather conditions – artificial lighting and rain/snow can mask some issues on a car’s bodywork so get a good look before you sign any papers.
But, a car that has lots of damage from multiple incidents (kerbing, dings and dents etc) could possibly a sign of somebody who also hasn’t cared about their car in other ways as perhaps as much as they could.
Of course, buying a 2nd hand car could mean you buy from a dealer or a private individual. If buying from a dealer, many offer a warranty. It’s worth checking the warranty, and what it will cover, along with any excess levels, as there are varying levels of cover.