Cruising with J9: How to test-drive a second-hand

2012-02-23 12:33

Buying a second-hand car could be a nightmare, but then again, the process could be smooth sailing. It just depends on how you go about your business.

It’s crucial that used cars – and their owners – are thoroughly checked out before purchasing. I’ve recently heard of a poor soul who paid a lumpy deposit on a car and now can’t trace the owners who have disappeared with his money.

When checking out cars on websites or on company adverts, make sure they actually exist. Phone the numbers and make sure it’s a landline, and try and visit the address. Get identification numbers and make sure bank account numbers are valid.

But before you reach that point, when going to test a car, make sure you’re not alone. Always tell loved ones about your whereabouts as well.

Try and view a used car during the day so that you can see any visible damage to the paint or body of the car. We’re not all authorised panelbeaters, but if you run your finger in a straight line across the lines and body of the car, you can easily feel the dents and unevenness.

Also, check that the panels line-up evenly, especially the gaps between the doors, bumper panels, the boot and light clusters. Where there are bigger gaps, it usually means the car was involved in an accident.

Check for differences in paint colours and ask the owner what the reasons are for any of it.

When driving the car, check the odometer for any marks as it might indicate the clock being turned back to present a lower mileage. Feel how smooth the gears change, check that the clutch is in good working order.

Make sure all the lights work. These are all items you can demand to be fixed before the sale or you can use it against the owner to lower the original price.

Most importantly, listen. Drive with the windows up and also put them down after a while to pick up any strange noises coming from the engine bay or the exhaust or even the wheels.

If you’re a member of the Automobile Association of South Africa, you can have a vehicle check done professionally. You will have to pick up the costs but you’ll get a full list of all the faults on the car that needs attention before you purchase it.

The test is about R600 but it could save you a few thousand rands in the long run.

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