Trying to figure out which used car to buy just by looking at them is like trying to figure out the difference between freshwater and seawater without being allowed to taste them. Thanks to science, that’s still possible. The former, on the other hand, isn’t and not even science can make that easier.
But something else can. And the good news is, you’re already reading it.
For the sake of novelty, consider this a page out of the official used-car bible.
And here are its ten commandments:
- Thou Shalt Decide What Car You Want
Cars are a lot like ice cream, they come in different shapes and sizes, you can get them in different colours, and just like extra toppings, you can get a bunch of additional features like keyless ignition, touch-sensitive entertainment systems, 7-point airbag safety, and the works. But you won’t ever go up to an ice-cream seller and ask him to give you just any ice cream. You’ll pick the flavour, you’ll pick a size, and then you’ll pick the toppings. That’s exactly what you want to do with your car. Before you start your search, decide which car you want, what colour you want it in and what features you’re looking for. This will make your search exponentially easier.
- Thou Shalt Set a Feasible Budget
A car costs quite a lot of money. And since most of us don’t have an unlimited supply of cash, it’s always better to decide how much you’re willing to spend on one. A used car would cost considerably lesser than a new one, so you’re in luck. Keep in mind though, that you will have a bunch of overhead costs to cover, like stamp duty and registration to shift ownership. The best thing to do would be to plan one budget for the car purchase and a separate one for additional costs.
- Thou Shalt Do Extensive Research
Don’t rely on the results you see on the first page. Spend some time doing your research and make sure you’ve exhausted every possible option before making your final list of prospective sellers. You’re likely going to spend a lot of time and money on this car, so don’t be lazy and take as much time as possible trying to find a good seller and a killer deal.
- Thou Shalt Make Sure That The Paperwork Is In Order
Before you start inspecting the car, take a look at its documentation. This includes registration, emission test certificates, and warranties, if any. Why should you do this right in the beginning? Because no matter how good the car is, there’s absolutely no reason for you to buy a car that can’t even be legally sold.
- Thou Shalt Ask Many Questions
When you are satisfied with the paperwork, ask the seller everything you think you should know about the car. Has it been in accidents? Have any major parts been replaced? How often has it been serviced? Are spare parts easily available in the market? How long has it been on sale? Why are they selling it? And don’t feel uneasy when you do this. In all probability, you’re going to be stuck with this vehicle for a long time. So make sure you know about any possible problems before you’re stuck on the road with a broken-down car that can’t even be fixed.
- Thou Shalt Carefully Examine the Exterior
Used cars, unless impeccably maintained, will definitely have some sort of wear and tear. Check all the surfaces for scratches, dents, and cracks. Be wary of rust, especially at corners and edges. Check where paint is chipping off and if there are any sorts of deformities. Make sure the tire treads aren’t too worn out, and check that there isn’t an odd tire that looks more abused than the rest. Follow the same procedure when you check the spare tire. Be sure to check the fenders and ensure that they aren’t loose or bent.
- Thou Shalt Check the Engine Thoroughly
Look under the hood like you’re running an autopsy. Pull out all the dipsticks and make sure none of the fluids are low or need replacement. Brake fluid should be yellowish or at most a dull translucent shade of light brown. If it looks any darker than that, you should probably ask the seller to bleed-out his brakes and fill in new fluid before you take discussions forward. Engine coolant should be clear and transmission fluid should be purplish-pink or red and shouldn’t smell like its burnt.
Once you’re satisfied that the liquids are all right, check all the belts and make sure they’re intact. Rubber tends to become brittle if it’s not maintained, so make sure the belts don’t feel like they’re about to crack under pressure, literally. Check all the pipes and hoses, especially the radiator pipes—soft, squishy ones need to be replaced immediately.
- Thou Shalt NOT Buy A Stolen Car
Every vehicle has a identification number (VIN) stamped on it. The doors, the fenders, the driver’s side dashboard, and the registration should all carry the VIN. Make sure that each part carries the same VIN and that it hasn’t been etched out. If the seller sounds sketchy while explaining why you can’t see the numbers anywhere or why they don’t match, it’s time to politely say goodbye and walk away.
- Thou Shalt Scrutinise The Interiors Carefully
Run your fingers over the upholstery lining to check for holes and tears. Check if the plastics are damaged or look like they’re in bad shape. Make sure the pedals are intact and there are no visible signs of damage on the ceiling. Use all the little buttons and knobs that you can see and make sure that the air-conditioning isn’t faulty. And please make sure that you don’t have to wrestle with the ignition to insert or remove the key.
- Thou Shalt Go For A Test Drive
Don’t ever buy a car that you don’t feel comfortable driving. There’s a lot that you can find out about a vehicle when you take it for a spin. Make sure the brakes work fine and the pedals don’t feel too stiff or too loose. Keep an ear out for any unusual sounds or creaking—this usually means that something’s loose or rusted. Find a nice straight road and, at a low speed, take your hand off the wheel for a few seconds. Does the car pull to one side? If it does, there is probably an issue with the wheel alignment or the steering. If you’re buy an automatic, make sure it shifts smoothly between gears. If not, there’s a strong chance something wrong with the transmission. Basically, if anything feels odd the first time you drive it, it’ll probably feel odd every time you drive it.
If you follow these ten simple commandments (simple because they don’t involve your neighbour’s wife) you are sure to find the perfect used car in a jiffy. Not sure where to start looking? Try Quikr Cars. It’s the easiest place to find exactly what you’re looking for.