Planning to buy a second-hand car means you have to double your efforts in making sure it’s still in good working condition. Since a vehicle is a sizable investment, it’s only right to take the time to evaluate the vehicle and make sure you’re getting a good deal —even when it’s second hand. You can bring along a trusted mechanic to help you look at the car, or you can do your own research and create a checklist to make sure every aspect of the car inspection is covered. As you may have read on some tips for buying a used car, let’s share the ways on how to evaluate a used car’s condition.

Things to keep in mind

When eyeing for a second-hand vehicle, it’s important to get as much information as possible, i.e. the car’s history, its service records, and ownership records. These factors will come into play in evaluating the used car you’re eyeing on as you can review the car’s mileage on the odometer and maintenance records. Allow for 15,000km per year, so if a five-year-old car has only done 50,000km, ask why. You can also ask for the car’s last service report which will state the mileage.
It’s also best to avoid cars that have been imported from flood-prone places as these vehicles might have a great deal of internal damage that can be hard to spot. When you work with a trustworthy New Zealand dealership, dealers will provide history reports for prospective buyers free of charge and some even offer used cars that are Odometer certified.

Car Inspection: What to Review

Inspecting the car you’re planning to purchase is mandatory as this is where you’ll truly know if it’s even worth completing the transaction.

  1. Review the car’s exteriors – Check the surface closely and note any signs of rust, discolouration, and scratches. Look for rust on: the main structural supports, on weight-bearing parts and steering wheel mountings, under carpets, the boot liner and in the spare tyre area, and inside the petrol cap door.
  2. Test the shock absorbers – A good way to test the car’s suspension is to give is a solid downward push at each corner. The car should return stiffly to its original position. If it bounces loosely back and forth, the shock absorbers are likely worn out.
  3. Review engine bay – You should look into the hood to get more information about the car’s body and its engine. Check for welded or bolted frame that may indicate that the vehicle has been in a front-end collision while scratch marks on the bolt heads may mean that the front panel has been replaced or realigned.
  4. Check under the bonnet – This includes the engine and the radiator. Make sure the engine isn’t frayed or has burnt wiring, and that the radiator doesn’t have leaks, rust, or water stains.
  5. Check the tyres – Check all four tyres and make sure they’re all even. Uneven wear may mean that they haven’t been rotated properly or may mean that the car has bad wheel alignment. Legally, in New Zealand, treads must be at least 1.5mm across ¾ of the tread pattern around the entire tyre.
  6. Check the exhaust – An exhaust leak is dangerous and may cause you to pass out from inhaling too much carbon monoxide. To check this, you need to look for soft or brittle areas, or areas where putty is used.
  7. Review the interiors – As you go in, notice the smell. It’s more common for vehicles that have been flooded to give out a certain stench. You should also check for lumps in the seat that may indicate that the interior has been flooded. If everything is good, check the seats for any rips, tear, or stains that may require additional repairs and cleaning. You should also check the dashboard switches and knobs, and the safety belts’ buckles and retractor mechanisms to make sure they work.
  8. Check all electrical components – This means the lights, radio, aircon, windows, SATNAV, etc. Make sure they’re all working as the car’s electrical system is one of the most difficult to troubleshoot.
  9. Check fluid levels – Make sure that fluid levels required by the car have been topped up such as engine oil, transmission, power steering, and brake fluids. Additionally, check that the oil is not black or muddy, as this could indicate the previous owner did not keep up with the regular oil changes necessary for a healthy engine.

Test Driving

Take the car out for a test drive as this is one of the best ways you’ll know if it’s the right used vehicle for you. Plus, taking yourself behind the wheels allow you to know how smooth the ride is, if the brakes function firmly, or if you fit right in the driver’s seat.

Aside from the usual drive around the neighbourhood, there are simple tests that will reveal things you’ll need to know. Perform an emergency stop to check the strength of the brakes. To make sure handbrake releases and the clutch works properly, you can drive it on a hill or a road with a gradient. You should also check if the car is balanced. Drive straight and remove your hands off of the wheel – does it veer to left or right or does it feel balanced? Is the car accelerate smoothly without judders or rattling? Does the engine sound normal? Then, perform a parallel park and see how easy it is to park.

If there are any issues, list them all down and ask yourself whether you’re willing to fix these problems. You should also mention these issues to the seller when it’s time to negotiate for the final price.

Buy from a trusted dealer

There are many used cars for sale in Auckland. However, where you’re buying it from should be a careful consideration. When you buy from a private seller, there’s no guarantee that you can have a refund when something goes wrong. With a dealer, you get more protection as they check their cars before selling them. Plus, they offer warranties that will give you more peace of mind when something about the vehicle doesn’t seem right. Make sure to work with dealers you can trust that will not force you to buy a lemon.

At MotorCo, you can get the best value out of your money with high quality used cars. We supply the best American and Japanese import cars in Auckland. We stand behind our products as all of our cars have undergone a VTNZ pre-purchase inspection, are odometer certified have passed a strict compliance and safety check as per NZTA standards, are professionally serviced and are fully groomed! See your options and visit our dealership today!