There’s this myth that most millionaires prefer secondhand cars, even if we all know that they can perfectly afford brand new, top-of-the line ones. Okay, that might not be entirely true (though I did have a mentor who always drove the latest BMW or Lexus – all secondhand ones), but the wealthy remain surprisingly low-key when it comes to their car choices, with many opting for a Toyota or a Honda over the flashier brands.
While they might not have that seductive brand-new car smell, used cars have their own draw. They’re significantly cheaper, for one. New cars depreciate by as much as 30% once they’re driven out of the dealership, after all. If you happen to be buying a secondhand car from someone who takes meticulous care of their automobiles, that would be like getting a brand new car for a big discount!
Secondhand cars are also a great option for your first car. Again, they’re not as costly, plus they’re usually cheaper to insure.
But whether you’re a multi-millionaire aiming to maximize your purchasing power or a first-time buyer looking for a good deal, you need to be extra careful when choosing a used car. Not all car owners are honest or transparent about the real condition of their automobiles for sale, so it’s best to check for the following things before you close the deal:
When you take the car for a test drive, the first thing you need to assess is how well the brakes work. Drive at a speed of at least 40 to 50 kilometers per hour, and then brake firmly, yet smoothly.
Look out for any vibrations from the brake pedals or for the car swerving as you brake. The former could indicate problematic brake rotors or the need for new brake pads, while the latter might be hinting at worn steering components or faulty brake calipers.
2. Engine Bay.
Pop the hood and inspect the engine. Scratch marks on the bolt heads atop the fenders could mean that the front panel was replaced or realigned. It’s also worth noting that cars that were involved in front-end collisions typically have welded or bolted frames.
Check the bottom of the car for rust accumulation. Better still, ask the seller if s/he can bring the car to a service center with a car lift or inspection pit so you can get a better look.
If you can see even signs of wear on all four tires, that’s a good sign. Otherwise, it could mean that they aren’t rotating properly. Even worse, uneven wear could indicate worn steering and/or suspension components, bad wheel alignment, or possibly even frame damage.
Have the previous owner or seller clean the car before you come over to view it so you can assess the body work more accurately. Do you see any signs of rust? Discoloration? Uneven paint jobs? Scratches?
Some sellers may disclose flaws on the car body early on, but you still need to check them out up close to see if they would be easy to fix, or if you would have to expend a great deal of time, effort, and money to do so. (In which case, you may want to reconsider simply buying a new car.)
As with the body, check the car seats for rips, tears, or stains that need repairs and cleaning. Lumps are also a dead giveaway that the car may have been flooded at some point.
What’s another quick way to determine if a secondhand car’s been drenched in floodwater? Take a good, long whiff. If you can detect the distinct stench of dirty water in the interior, you should probably back out of the purchase.
7. Electrical Components.
Do a sound test with the car’s stereo, and see if the fuel and battery gauges are accurate. Check the built-in GPS as well, while you’re at it.
Bugs in a car’s electrical system are some of the most difficult to troubleshoot, so you need to spot them early on to deal with them more effectively.
8. Fluid Levels.
All of the car’s essential fluid levels should have been topped up before the unit is handed over to you. Take a look at the engine oil, power steering, transmission, and brake fluid levels to see if everything’s in order just before the seller hands the keys over to you.
Better yet, you could ask a trusted mechanic to come along with you when inspecting a secondhand car. Getting a good deal on your first or fifth car is all well and good, but at the end of the day, nothing trumps the peace of mind you should get from safely driving one that’s functioning as it should.