LETTER | 'Older cars can be gold': here's how to look for a used car online, and save money - reader


• Wheels24 reader Neil Hamilton shares online car-buying tips
• What to look out for as a petrolhead
• How to save money when looking for used cars

Neil Hamilton often writes to us at Wheels24, mostly about F1. This time, he shares what he looks out for when searching for a second-hand vehicle online, as a petrolhead, and what to look out for.

Budgets. We all hate them, but we all need them.

When looking for a used car, I usually, being a petrolhead, look at performance over economy.

However, then the sensible part of our relationship (my significant other), usually intervenes and says, maybe we should keep looking.

That aid, depending on what you want, there are myriads of fantastic used cars available. From the small "lunchbox" city cars to more luxurious, uber-executive vehicles – it's all there.

I generally look at mid-size or larger sedans up to ten years old (IF it has been maintained well), with as many bells as whistles as can be obtained at the price.

Again, being a petrolhead, anything less than 2.0-litres is silly, given the long distances we travel in the Karoo/Namakwaland. In my view, only milk comes in 2.0-litres! And cupholders are for cinemas. Yes, I'm a dinosaur, maybe, but the whole connectivity and cupholders gig does nothing for me. What's important is the number of cylinders, vehicle performance, active and passive safety features, handling etc. I just figure that if I'm driving it, I may as well enjoy it properly.

bmw m3 autotrader

Image: Autotrader

Most older vehicles have already plateaued in terms of depreciation; I have a look at what is available within a price range and then pick the cream from there.

You will always have a good spread, from entry-level VW Golfs and Ford Figos to your premium brand Audi, BMW, Mercedes etc. I generally go after the more premium brands – these are cars that have been well looked after until the motor plan expires, and then been traded. There are some fantastic vehicles to be had!!!

One thing to remember though is that, if you do buy that raucous Audi S4 Quattro (2003 – 2005) V8 for under R150 000, or E46 M3 AT a smudge over R200 000, or the Ford Focus ST at a hint over R100 000, it remains a premium vehicle. Therefore, an aftermarket service plan and warranty are vital as, although the car may be a steal, maintenance and repairs still ask premium prices.

But, there's always a workaround!

Agents are stupid expensive on most days.


Image: Supplied/BMW

Do your homework and find what you need (add a little of what you want if you can!). Always try to source an aftermarket warranty and service plan, and then find a good mechanic who specialises in your vehicle but is not affiliated to the dealer network. 

There are plentiful workshops around who can give the same level of service at a fraction of the price, and as far as parts go, I tend to use parts made by the same manufacturers who do the OEM bits, but without that badge - it saves a few thousand Rands.

If you are okay with not being the latest and greatest of today, you can end up in the latest and greatest from a few years back at a fraction of what it cost new, and many times, still in mint nick.

Look at Autotrader and other local car-buying sites – you will be amazed at what you find if you dig. Also be aware that the vehicle can be tested and checked for faults before buying for extra peace of mind, but that usually carries a cost with it, which can be money well spent.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to convince my wife that we really NEED the BMW V10 M5 going for R250 000 while she talks to me about the merits of a Jeep Wrangler.

PS: Gents – if you must marry – find a woman who has as much petrol in her veins as you!

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