Tips and tricks for buying used cars - Foresters Community Finance

Tips and tricks for buying used cars

Wheels on the road opens many new doors. Look into buying used cars and save.

Owning a car gives so many opportunities: to be self-reliant and to run errands for the family, to name but a few.

Why is it important for a young adult to own a used car?

  • Mobility: dropping younger siblings to school, picking up from the airport and dinner.
  • Independence: probably the most important aspect of a young persons’ development. You instill trust in your child by buying them a car that they alone have to care for. Owning and running a car is a significant investment and encourages positive financial decision for your child (budgeting, insurance and maintenance).
  • Work: statistically safer than public transport, your child will not fear for their safety late at night or in a dodgy part of town. They will always have a means of extracting themselves from a situation they are not comfortable in.
  • Socialising and exploration: two quintessential development points for a young person. Your purchase of a car will get them into the world. Encouraging them to explore and socialise with a car will teach them foster a number of worthwhile traits. They will learn skills in navigation, time and money management. Having a car is also an important social currency because it makes socialising so easy possible.

I’ve decided on buying used cars. What now?

These are the steps to follow so you don’t get burned at the car yard:

  1. Budget: find out what fits in with you including fuel, maintenance and insurance.
  2. Research: the key to finding the right fit. CarsGuide offer great comparisons. Don’t op for the cheapest model available. With cars, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  3. Refine: you want a safe vehicle that is not a relic. It will only cause more problems than the doors it opens.
  4. Contact the seller: get a handle on who you are dealing with. How long have they owned the car? What’s it’s general condition? What’s its service history?
  5. Have an inspection: try before you buy every time. If it’s a rainy day, even better. This will be an indicator of how well sealed the doors are.
  6. Check the vehicle’s history: make sure it isn’t stolen, has an outstanding loan or has been written off. Use the Vehicle Identification Number to perform this check.
  7. Check the car inside and out: go over the vehicle with an eagle eye. Also, consider taking it to a mechanic and consider a RACQ inspection and have it looked at.
  8. Is it safe? Newer model cars are generally safer. Seatbelts working? Do you want airbags? How do the crumble zones test? Is the steering column collapsible? Does the car use high-strength materials?
  9. Test drive: try and try and try. Move steering wheel from lock to lock to see if there are any problems. Take it at speeds over 80km/h to gauge any shuddering or irregularities. Turn off the radio to hear the engine. Check the wheel alignment by letting the car coast without handling on a straight bit of road. Go through the gears to test the gearbox. Park on a steep hill and engage the handbrake to test its effectiveness.
  10. Negotiate: nothing is final until the paperwork is signed and money is transferred. List the faults, if any, you have found and bring the price down by referencing them. If there are no faults, still lowball your seller. Continue negotiating until a price is agreed upon.
  11. Payment and paperwork: Make sure all registration and service history paperwork is in order and the details match the sells’. Have all originals. Photocopies are worth less than a spark plug.
  12. Keep a log: detail how, where and by whom the car is being used. Know when fuel, oil and other fluids were last filled up, also when the vehicle was last serviced. Being proactive on this and regular services will ensure the car lasts a long time.

Where’s the best place to buy a used car?

In South East Queensland you have plenty of options

  • Car yards: a quick internet search will give you plenty of reviewed car yards with vehicles for under $5000
  • Online: CarsGuide and CarPoint are the two biggest. Gumtree actually sells more cars than CarsGuide. Watch out for scams.
  • Auctions: go to a few used car auctions to see what you are getting into. Remember there’s no cooling off period here. Find the market value of the car before you go. Don’t go over budget. Also make sure you read the T’s and C’s of the sale.
  • Buying privately: no protection or cooling off period. Consequently, no statutory warranty (that is a warranty that protects if the vehicle is faulty)

I’ve heard a lot about dodgy car dealers. How do I protect myself?

The dodgy car dealer is a classic film and TV trope. Used car buyers have traditionally been one of the most exploited market segments in recent history. As well as following our steps outlined above to the letter, you can also:

  • First of all, confirm the numbers (VIN, engine, number, registration) and make sure they match.
  • Assess the vehicle for damage.
  • Be wary of scams. Red flags are easy to spot. If the car is too cheap compared to similar models, you have probably got yourself a lemon.
  • If the seller is unavailable to show and test the car, they probably don’t exist.
  • Obviously fake email receipts are a huge warning sign as well.
  • Don’t trust ads: always thoroughly scrutinise the product you are buying. Even reputable selling websites can host false advertising.
  • Don’t pay any money, partial or otherwise, until you have inspected the vehicle with your own eyes.
  • Using the exact working of the ad, search it online. The online community is good at identifying scams using the same language.

Finally, do you need a loan to cover the cost of buying your car? At Foresters Community Finance, we offer fast, affordable and equitable loans to get you on the road. As a community social enterprise we value fairness and accessibility for all people, regardless of where you might be financially. We have a number of loan options which may also suit what you need to continue providing for the people you love.  Click “I Need A Loan” at the top of this page to get started!

– Rory Callaghan