Buying a used car can be harrowing, whether privately or from a dealer. Here are some tips, as well as some things to watch out for.
Beware of low mileages, especially on smaller or cheaper cars. It is always possible that the odometer has been turned back. Some things to bear in mind are:- diesels are often bought because they the driver needs to undertake long trips without consuming vast amounts of fuel. This could be a sales rep, or someone travelling large distances to work, lots of lengthy trip for family holidays, etc. So, usually higher mileages than normal.
An expensive or luxury car may not see much time on the road, but very seldom a “workhorse”. This makes the executive cars likely to have a lot more life left than the overworked and abused hatchback. These also spend most of their life in a home garage or undercover parking lot at work.
A vehicle without any service history is a serious disadvantage. Even a partial history will help a lot. One diesel minibus I looked at did have a service history booklet. The problem was the very first service, an oil change at 7 500 km had been skipped, the owner rather waiting for the full service at 15 000 km. Other interim oil changes were also skipped. I walked away to the discontent of the salesman.
If the clutch pedal rubber is worn, this indicates lots of use and usually a high mileage. One of many tips is to inspect it. A worn one on a low-mileage car seems highly suspicious.
If the mileage travelled works out to less than 10 000 km per year, look closely at the tyres and ask the owner/seller if and when they were replaced. Tyres usually should last between 40 000 and 80 000 km. Front-wheel drive cars will see the fronts wearing at about twice the rate of the rears. The spare is often used to save money and the last remaining original tyre will be relegated to the spare wheel to save some cash.
When you have made your purchase, ensure that you get off to a good start by inspecting the condition of the oil as well as the air filter. If in doubt as to when last the car was serviced, change at least the oil, oil filter and air filter.
Most people neglect to change the gearbox oil, as gearboxes are generally reliable. A build-up of iron particles will occur with time and this will accelerate wear if the oil is not changed periodically. Check the service guide for recommendations.