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Buying a Car – Quick Guide

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Buying a used car can be an incredibly rewarding and satisfying experience provided it is done correctly. However, it can also be the most horrendous experience of your life if not done right. There are some common pitfalls that are associated with buying a used car. Avoiding these pitfalls will ensure that you get a great car at a great price. We have compiled a list of tips to make the process of buying a used car as smooth and trouble-free as possible. Here are all the things to look out for in a used car before buying it.

The engine:

This is the heart of the car and if it is in great condition then it doesn’t matter how old the car is. It will still be able to serve you for many more years without breaking down easily. Identifying the state of the engine isn’t all that difficult. You can begin by lifting the hood and doing a visual inspection. If it is too dirty and there are plenty of oil stains then it points to a troublesome engine. This is not the most reliable test though. Start the engine and see if it starts up smoothly and that there are no spluttering noises. Another thing you can do is to ask someone else to start the engine and rev it. Watch out for funny smells or smoke from the exhaust as both are pointers of an engine in poor health. The reason is very simple. A car engine has thousands of moving parts and if the engine has not been maintained and serviced properly then these parts can suffer wear and tear. The parts won’t fit as snugly as they would on a new car and this will lead to multiple places inside the engine where power is wasted. This leads to an engine that is inefficient. It will consume more fuel, will have less power to offer in terms of acceleration and top speed and worst of all, it will have a high probability of suffering a catastrophic breakdown and replacing car engines is a highly expensive and complicated process. If you are unsure then have the engine checked out by a qualified mechanic.


Let’s assume that the car has passed the first test and has a fine engine. It still won’t make it a worthy used car. There are other parts of the car that matter equally and can be just as difficult and costly to fix. One of these happens to be the steering and transmission. Make sure that if it is a manual car then the gear shifts are smooth. There should be no false shifts or loud noises when shifting gears. The steering of the car should also be precise and not haphazard. What we mean by this is that the car should steer uniformly and not veer more in one direction than the other. If the car turns more easily in one direction than the other then it is a sign of either a hydraulic issue or steering rack imbalance, both of which can be complicated to fix. Another thing to pay close attention to is the ride comfort of the car. Just like the engine, the suspension suffers overtime and it is your job to figure out if the suspension is beyond redemption. If the car is sitting too low or the bottom scrapes quite easily when going over speed bumps then it means the suspension is well past its prime which again can be quite expensive to fix. In short, the car should feel great to drive. Sometimes used cars will not have any obvious faults but they just don’t feel right to drive. Avoid such used cars.

Cost of repairs:

This is an undeniable fact about a used car. Many of its parts will need replacing. It will require multiple repairs. That is just how it is with machines. What differentiates a good used car from a bad one is the cost of these repairs. A good used car will cost you a lot less. You should factor in the cost of repairs into the overall cost. So, it isn’t always wise to go for the cheapest option. There is no point saving a few bucks on the outright price only to spend a lot more in getting the car into drive-able condition. Keep in mind that fixing leaks and faults in the electrical system can be quite expensive even if they appear to be minor issues. Other parts that can give a hefty repair bill includes the engine and the gearbox. Minor scrapes and dings are relatively cheap to fix but if the car has major structural problems or needs a complete repainting then the total cost of the car can escalate quite drastically. The smart way to decide if a used car is worth investing in is by having it checked by an auto shop or a mechanic and getting a quote for all the repairs and changes you want on the car. Add this cost to the outright price and then decide if this gross cost that you arrive at is a reasonable one or if you can find a better car for the same price.

Cost of ownership:

This is slightly different to the cost of repairs. A used car will require more frequent service stops and maintenance. The parts of a used car will also be more prone to breaking down. This means that you will have to factor all of these in the costs incurred over the life of the car. Another very important factor is the fuel economy. A used car will have a poorer fuel economy as compared to a new one and this is something that is almost impossible to fix. However, a good used car will still offer a reasonable fuel economy. All these add up to the cost of ownership and this should be within what is reasonable and feasible for you. Even if you have to spend a bit more money when buying the car, it is well worth the extra cost if the car is cheaper to own in the long term. Buying a used car that is dirt cheap but gives you hefty bills every month can be one of the worst decisions you can take. Such cars will also be very difficult to sell and you will end up losing a lot of money in the whole ordeal. Simply put, the car should be cheap to buy and cheap to own as well.

Viable life:

Even though a used car will be cheaper than a new one, it will still cost a significant amount of money. The car should last you long enough so that you get a decent amount of mileage out of it. If the car becomes undrivable after a few short years then the investment is akin to throwing money down the drain irrespective how cheap it was in the first place. You can figure out the useable life of the car by looking for certain signs. If the car rattles and vibrates a lot and there is a lot of rust and the paint has started to flake then it means that the car is on its last leg. If, however, the car is in pretty decent shape on the outside and the rust and corrosion is minimal then it points to a good structural health. If the car is also able to stay smooth with very little vibration and rattling while driving then that means that the car has plenty of life still remaining in it.

History of the car:

A car can look and feel absolutely fine but it can still hide major issues and faults. This is especially common in cars that have been in huge crashes or accidents. Getting the insurance records of the car will give you a fair idea of everything the car has gone through and steer clear of anything that has suffered major damage in the past. The car might have been fixed but it would have in all likelihood suffered a loss of structural integrity which can be dangerous to you and anyone who rides with you in the car.

A helpful checklist:

  • Go for a test drive: A car can seem perfectly alright on the outside and even when switched on for a few minutes. To truly get a sense of how the car feels and behaves in the real world, you need to go for a test drive. Only think about buying the car if the test ride feels great and to your liking.

  • Look for leaks: Simply move the car away from where it was parked and look at the area that was covered by the car. If there are oil stains then steer clear of such a car as oil leaks are incredibly difficult to fix.

  • Get the opinion of a professional: Irrespective of how thoroughly you vet the car out, there will still be some things that you might end up missing. Always get the opinion of an expert. They will also be able to give you an estimate of how much it would cost to fix any and all the blemishes of the car giving you a fair idea of how much money it is going to cost as a whole.


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