Your 5-Point Checklist When Buying a Pre-Owned Car

Buying used cars can also be risky, to say the least. Unlike a brand-new set of wheels--which you expect to be running perfectly--a used car's dependability relies on wear and tear, its old owner's maintenance habits, and the overall integrity of the hardware. Spare yourself from buyer's remorse and take note of our five useful tips:

It's all about the price tag

Price is everything but that doesn't mean that you should always go for the cheapest ones. Remember, cheaper units probably have higher mileage and will have more parts that need replacing. Components typically start wearing out around the 60,000-70,000 km. mark.


Buying a pre-owned car without test driving is a recipe for disaster, even if the seller stubbornly insists otherwise. Test for steering problems by turning the steering wheel full lock left and right, and listen for knocking/tugging sounds. Do a brief, full-throttle acceleration and listen to the engine and transmission for strange noises. Test the breaks by simulating a panic stop.

Treat the purchase like a minefield

One missed red flag and you could get less for what you're bargaining for, or worse, get scammed altogether. Ask for the car's service records, its official receipt, and registration documents. You can either text the Traffic Management Group (TMG number: 2600) or track if its plates have been changed to check if the vehicle is clean or a stolen one. Lastly, check if the chassis and engine numbers match the records provided by the seller.

Inspect the car like a murder scene

Doubt is your best friend. Check the car in daylight so you can see the paint quality: Spots that don't quite match are clue that it has been bent, scratched, or touched up with masilya (body filler/putty), and painted over. Check the lock of the trunk and doors and see if the mechanism is working properly. Pop up the hood and check its fluids, especially oil, by performing a dipstick test. To check the engine's condition, start the car and notice the sound it makes and the exhaust's color. Lastly, check under the vehicle for some form of liquid leaking. If it's water then it might just be the air conditioner but if it's oil, then it could be a sign of a degraded engine or bad oil seals. For the interior, try out the seats if they still have cushioning and check if all the gauges and lights work. Test the A/C at its lowest and highest settings and see how long it takes to cool the vehicle.


Now that you're done with a thorough inspection and a comprehensive test-drive, it's time to slap a price tag on your new favourite toy. Improve your chances of getting a lower quotation by compiling your findings and pointing out the red flags to the seller.

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