6 Things to Check When Buying a Used Car

buying a used car

Time to upgrade the family car? If you’ve got a budget in mind and don’t think you can afford a brand new vehicle, then a second hand car might be better for you. Whether you opt to go with a private seller or visit a car dealership, both have their advantages and drawbacks. For one, there are some protections in place for you, as a buyer, when purchasing from a used-car dealer, and almost none when buying from a private seller.

However, don’t let that put you off from going down the private seller route. At CCI Personal Insurance, we’ve prepared a checklist to help you on your way when the time comes to buy a used car – regardless of where you go.

First thing’s first: do your research

Buying a car is a big investment, and we’re not just talking monetary. There’s nothing more disheartening than having your heart set on a car and driving away only to realise that you just bought a lemon by indication of the wheels falling off – or worse, that there’s finance owing on it.

If you’ve done the research – both online and in the car lots – you probably have a good indication of the type of vehicle you want. For example, you’re not looking at sports cars if you’re thinking about all those fun family road trips. With your choices narrowed down, there’s a few things that you should do above all when looking at used cars:

  1. Confirm the numbers: When looking at a used car, you need to ensure the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), engine number and registration number match the numbers on the registration papers. It is essential that you physically sight these numbers on the car and that they match. If they don’t, the car you’re looking at could be different to the one you’re buying. While you can do this yourself, it is covered when you get a Roadworthy Certificate by a licenced roadworthy tester that is approved by VicRoads.
  2. Check for debt: This is equally as important as the previous point. If a vehicle has debt owing on it, the lender is in their rights to seize ‘your’ car to recover the funds.
  3. Assess history and crash damage: While it varies from state to state, repaired write-off vehicles generally cannot be insured. It’s also important that you check for hidden damage or evidence of a previous major crash.

If those three points pass the inspection, then it’s time to move onto the next 7 factors. Just like the ones before, the following features are non-negotiables as they deal with safety concerns and major money pitfalls should they not be up to scratch.

Car buying checklist

Buying a second hand car shouldn’t include throwing money at it until it’s in good condition to take home. While a minor scratch and general wear and tear are expected from a used car, there are some concerns that shouldn’t be ignored.

If you have your sights set on a long list of cars, just take a quick look around to observe the following on each model. Doing so could save you a headache (and a couple of thousand dollars) in the future:

  1. Tyre check: Ensure all tyres – including the spare – are in good, visible condition, with tread depth displayed as above minimum wear conditions. Excessive wear on one tyre could indicate that the car’s wheel alignment is out.
  2. Seat belt and steering wheel check: It goes without saying that the safety of you and your occupants are paramount. Where seatbelts are concerned, confirm that there’s no slack and that they extend smoothly. It’s also a good idea to ensure the steering wheel turns with ease, and feels strong and secure.
  3. Body check: Do all doors, bonnets and boots open and close firmly? Do all panels look like they belong, or are there mismatched, loose, or misaligned panels?
  4. Equipment features check: You’ll also want to make sure all the equipment and accessories in the car will work. Test the air conditioning, heater, fans, power windows, door locks and stereo.
  5. Lights check: Have a look to see whether the brake lights, indicators, park lights and reverse lights are bright and in good working order. Take a further look on the dashboard to see if any of the warning lights turn on when the car is running. If they turn on, ask them to be replaced so you can guarantee that there is no electrical or wiring fault.
  6. Interior check: The car should be clean inside and not have any strange smells. Look for any damage or cracks in the car’s interior plastics, and any stains in the upholstery and carpet.

By taking the time to check out these features, you can narrow your list down to just a few cars.

If you don’t feel comfortable conducting this check yourself you may want to hire a professional to evaluate the vehicle for you. For example RACV can provide you with a formal report for a fixed fee.

Test drive tips

If you’ve completed a thorough check and everything looks great at this point, it’s only natural to want to take your car for a test drive. This is where you’ll be able to test the transmission, as well as how the car drives on different surfaces and at different speeds. Don’t forget to test the handbrake on a steep hill too. If it’s green lights from here, congratulations – you’ve just got yourself a new used car.

Want that car? You also might want to consider car insurance. Talk to us today at CCI Personal Insurance about your options.