What to Look Out For When Buying a 2nd Hand Car

What to Look Out For When Buying a 2nd Hand Car

Buying 2nd Hand: Expert advice


For most people, buying a used car is an in-person experience, whether with a private party or at a dealership. VAG Spec Centre Cape Town has put together a few tips when buy a 2nd hand car.

  • Do as much research as you can online. This would include educating yourself on common problems you may find on the vehicle you are looking at and running costs of the vehicle (service and maintenance costs). If you are going to buy through a dealership, you could also research the dealership itself.
  • Regardless who you buy from, always look over the vehicle thoroughly and take it to an RMI/ MIWA accredited workshop for a complete inspection. Preferably a workshop that specialises in your chosen brand as they would be seasoned in both common problems and what to look for.
  • Do your inspection in daylight on a dry day, because floodlights can make cars look shiny and hide body defects. The car should be parked on a level surface.
  • Definitely don’t miss the opportunity to test drive the vehicle. As much as 16% of people don’t test drive second hand vehicles before buying them. This one action could save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
  • Check each panel and the roof, looking for scratches, dents, and rust. Watch out for misaligned panels or large gaps, which can indicate poor body repairs. The paint colour and finish should be the same on panel. When taking the vehicle to your chosen workshop for pre-purchase inspection, the technician should also be able to spot other bodywork that may be less obvious to the untrained eye.
  • Rust can be cause for concern, so check the body for blistered paint or visible rust. Check the wheel wells, panels beneath the doors, and door bottoms.
  • Open and close each door, the bonnet, and the boot. If it seems loose on its hinges, the car has seen hard or long use. Inspect rubber seals for tearing or perishing.
  • Look carefully at the glass to make sure there are no cracks or large, pocked areas. A small stone chip might not be cause for alarm, though you should bring it up in negotiations. Cracks in the windshield will worsen and lead to a costly repair.
  • Walk around the car to see whether it’s sitting level. Push down on each corner. If the shock absorbers are in good shape, the car should rebound just once, not bounce up and down. Grab the top of each front tire and tug it back and forth. If you feel play or hear an unusual sounds, this is something to be concerned about.
  • Tread-wear should be even across the width of the tread, and the same on the tires on the left and right sides of the car. Ask whether the tires have been regularly rotated. If not, the wear is usually more severe on the drive wheels. If the tyres need to be replaced, you could factor this into your negotiations.
  • Examine the sidewalls for scuffing, cracks, or bulges, and look for dents or cracks on each wheel. Be sure to check that the spare is in good shape and the proper jack, lock nut and tools are present.
  • When you first open the car door, sniff the interior. A musty, mouldy, or mildew type smell could indicate water leaks. Remove the floor mats and check for wet spots on the carpet.
  • Try out all the seats, even if you probably won’t sit in the rear. Upholstery and roof linings shouldn’t be ripped or badly worn, particularly in a car with low mileage. Try all the seat adjustments to make sure that they work properly and that you can find a good driving position.
  • Turn on the ignition switch without starting the engine. You should make sure all the warning lights—including the check-engine light—illuminate for a few seconds and go off when you start the engine. Note whether the engine is hard to start when cold and if it idles smoothly. Then try out every switch, button, and lever.
  • With the engine running, turn on the heater full blast to see how hot it gets, and how quickly. Switch on the air conditioning and make sure it quickly blows cold.
  • Check reception on AM and FM radio. If the car has a CD player, try loading and ejecting a disc. Take your smartphone or MP3 player with you, and plug it in and/or pair it via Bluetooth.
  • Use your nose as well as your eyes. Sniff and look for signs of water entry in the boot. See whether the carpeting feels wet or smells musty, and check the spare-tire well for water or rust
  • It’s best to make these checks with the engine cool. First inspect the general condition of the engine bay. Dirt and dust are normal, but be wary if you see oil splattered about or on the pavement below. Also be on the lookout for a battery covered with corrosion, or wires and hoses hanging loose.
  • If the vehicle is high enough to slide under, you may be able to do some basic checks. If you see oil drips, oily leaks, or green or red fluid on the engine or the pavement beneath the car, it’s not a good sign.
  • Examine the constant-velocity-joint boots, which are the round, black-rubber bellows at the ends of the axle shafts. If they are split and leaking grease, assume that the car has bad CV joints, another costly repair.

Before you close the deal, have the car scrutinized by an accredited workshop that routinely does diagnostic work. A dealership should have no problem working with you to get the vehicle to an accredited workshop. If a salesperson tells you that an independent inspection is not necessary because the dealership has already done it, insist on having your mechanic look at it. If a private seller is reluctant to let you drive the car to a shop, offer to follow the seller to the inspection shop.

Ask your mechanic for a written report detailing the car’s condition, noting any problems found and the cost to repair them. You can then use the report when you begin to negotiate with the seller or for peace of mind.

Contact us for expert advice: https://www.vagspecct.co.za/contact-us/

Vagspec branches:

Randburg www.vagspecrandburg.co.za

Menlyn www.vagspecmenlyn.co.za

Zeerust www.vagspeczeerust.co.za