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We all know that buying a used car is a risky undertaking. Let's look at a few survival skills needed to negotiate this minefield.
You have basically three options: buying from a private seller, buying from a used car dealer, or buying at an auction. Buying from a private seller is always on an "as is" basis, in other words, no guarantee is given or implied. You can ask questions and inspect as much as you like, but once you hand over the money, you cannot go back and complain.
On the positive side, prices are generally lower in private transactions .
Buying from a used car dealer has the advantage that some sort of guarantee is usually included in the deal.
A good tactic is to ask for the name and contact number of the previous owner, because you would like to hear about his or her experiences with the car - a very reasonable request. Walk away if it meets a stonewall of resistance.
Buying at an auction is probably the riskiest option of all.
You might strike a huge bargain, but you know practically nothing about the vehicle.
lThings to look at
Start by walking around the vehicle to look for signs of accident damage. Take a small magnet with you to probe suspect areas for body filler.
Next look at the engine in good light. Is it cold, free of leaks, but not unnaturally clean?
Remove the radiator filler cap and look at the coolant. Pull out the dipstick and look at the engine oil on it.
Next, ask to start the engine yourself. Let the engine settle into idling and listen all the time. Be wary of excessively high idling speed and a constantly jabbering owner.
Apply the handbrake and put the car in first gear. Let the clutch out slowly and feel whether the take-up is smooth and progressive.
Declutch, put the car in reverse and repeat.
While in the driver's seat, assess the interior of the car. Does the condition of the foot pedal rubbers correspond to the claimed distance on the clock? Any water stains from leaks?
Finally, if you are still interested, ask to see the owner's registration certificate for the car (the original certificate that is issued when a vehicle is licensed in a person's name, not the latest annual licence certificate).
Do not hand over the money before you have this in your hand, as well as a fully completed and signed change-of-ownership form. The slightest discrepancy here is reason to call off the deal immediately. Unwittingly buying a stolen car is a nightmare.
l Be very sceptical.
All used cars should be viewed with a healthy dose of scepticism, but the following ones deserve extra caution:
Any vehicle whose camshaft is driven by a belt and any vehicle with a turbocharger.