Second-hand car buying tips

Buying a second hand car is probably one of the largest purchases most people make, but a few tips on what to look for, could save you money and frustration later on.

Apia often sees the pain caused to those who don’t due their due diligence when buying a second-hand car and believe that their insurance will cover all issue. David Skapinker, Apia spokesperson, added that insurance policies don’t cover pre-existing issues with your ‘new’ car, so it’s worthwhile taking the time to carry out a few simple checks. David has the following advice for those keen to avoid car insurance woes further down the track.

“What we would just like to do is give some people a bit advice for things to look for when they are looking for a second-hand car. A lot our tips sound quite obvious but there are things that in the pressure cooker environment of a showroom or private car inspection that may slip your mind. Having a list to go through may help you out.

Firstly, check the interior really closely, if there is has ever been water damage to a car it might only show underneath the carpeting but ultimately could lead to rust issues, for example. While it might sound a bit strange, take a sniff around the car as water damage may show itself as a musty smell. We would also suggest people check the interior for things like scuffing, loose trimming and upholstery tears. Anything that is considered pre-existing damage to the vehicle when you take out a new insurance policy won’t be covered, so the cost to repair that will be up to you.

Check the inside of the boot because if the car you are buying has had a rear end accident, the external damage may have been fixed but the previous owner may have scrimped on fixing the internal, or structural damage. So we suggest to certainly check whether there’s any hidden damage.

Take a look at the exterior very closely. If panels are slightly different colours this might mean the damage from an accident has been repaired. That doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the car, you just have to be happy with a slight paint mismatch. If that’s something you are prepared to live with, then you may be able to use it as a negotiation point. If, however, you are worried there may be hidden structural damage then definitely get it checked out.

Also, check for rusting, small scratches on the car or dents that you are either happy to live with or pay to have fixed because again that’s not covered under a new insurance policy you take out to insure your new purchase.

Unless you are very knowledgeable about the mechanics of cars it might be worth investing in getting an independent inspector to take a look at the vehicle. There are even some inspection companies out there that will come to you or to where the car is being held and do an inspection right on site. If, however, you are comfortable taking a look under the bonnet, common things to look for are wear and tear around the carburetor, fuel injector, radiator, timing belt and spark plugs. 

Test driving a car really is paramount to the whole process. If you’re considering purchasing a second hand car, a test drive should be mandatory. Wheel alignment is not only a key safety issue, but if the car has had an accident chances are it’s going to show in the wheel alignment. You really want to see if the car is, for example, pulling to the left a little bit. Also check the quality of tyres and brakes because they obviously some very key safety elements of the car. You would be up for the cost of replacing them if you buy the car sight unseen and there is something wrong with them. You should also listen out for sounds like knocks and rattles on your test drive. They can be a great indicator something may be wrong.

A purchase of a second hand vehicle is a large purchase, often thousands of dollars. You wouldn’t be pressured into buying something out of a store for that kind of price so go in there with a level head and know what you want and what your limits are.”

To find out how Apia can reward your experience visit www.apia.com.au.

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