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Jack’s best car buying tips

Last updated November 11th, 2016.

If you are looking to buy a second hand car, there are several pitfalls you need to be aware of to make sure you get the best value for money.

If you do your homework and use some common sense, it’s possible to pick up a great deal with a used car that will serve your needs for a long time and provide reliable motoring. But if you jump in too quickly and don’t know the common warning signs of a bad deal, you could end up wasting your money on a lemon.

Here are 5 valuable car buying tips from Jack (who has been around a long time and seen a lot of car deals)

car buying tips from jack

1. Work out your budget

Most people can’t afford to pay the full amount in cash for their car, so they will need to borrow a certain percentage of the money. On one hand, you need to pay a realistic amount to get a car that’s reliable and won’t cost a fortune in repairs and maintenance. But on the other hand you need to be realistic about what you can actually afford.

When you’re working out your budget, remember you’ve also got running costs – fuel, servicing, insurance and registration etc.

It’s a good idea to work out all these numbers in advance before you start car shopping. Then you will know the price range you should be looking in, and won’t get sidetracked by cars that are either too expensive, or too cheap.

2. Buying privately is cheaper than a dealer – but beware

If you browse on Trademe and other sites online you’ll often find some great car deals. And if you know what you’re doing, it’s possible to pick up a genuine bargain. But remember when you buy privately, it’s very much “buyer beware”. There’s no come back if the car breaks down or you discover there’s a massive amount of hidden work needed, which the seller didn’t tell you about.

When you buy from a dealer, you will pay a bit more. But if it’s a licensed and reputable dealer you will usually have a guarantee that covers you for at least 6 months against mechanical faults etc. Most dealers will honour these guarantees, as these need to protect their reputation. So the extra money you pay from a dealer could be worth it for the peace of mind.

3. Get someone mechanically-minded to check the car over

This applies particularly if you are buying privately from somewhere like Trademe. If you have a friend or relative who is knowledgeable about cars, get them to come with you to inspect the vehicle. This is just common sense. They will be able to spot the warning signs that you might miss.

4. The all-important test drive

Before you decide whether to buy or not, you’ll want to take a test drive in the car. Here are some things to look for:

  • How does the driver’s seat feel? Is it comfortable and easy to adjust, with enough leg room?
  • Does the steering wheel feel comfortable? Can you adjust it’s position?
  • When driving, can you hear any strange sounds, excessive rattles etc.? These could be warning signs of trouble.
  • Do you like the “feel” of the car when driving?
  • Check to make sure it has a current warrant of fitness and registration.

5. Trust your gut feeling

Usually when you look at a second hand car, you will get a good or bad feeling about the person selling it. You need to take notice of this. There’s the obvious example of buying a car from an elderly lady who is selling a vehicle she has owned since new and has mainly driven to the shops and back. Generally, your gut feeling would be pretty good in this case. On the other hand, if the seller is a young guy who has several vehicles in his back yard in various states of being done up, you might sense a warning sign.

These are generalisations. But you can’t go wrong by listening to that inner voice that tells you something is right or wrong about a car. Don’t be talked into buying something you’re not sure about. If you feel it’s not right, walk away.

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