5 Non-negotiables to consider when buying a used car

5 Non-negotiables to consider when  buying a used car

‘Never judge a book by its cover’ couldn’t be more apt advice to follow than when buying a second-hand vehicle. The used car market can be daunting; saturated with makes and models, and fraught with stresses and stereotypical ‘salesman’ talk. So, whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned veteran, you need to know what you are looking for.

‘Pre-loved’ doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, which makes doing your due diligence – before buying a used car – simple common sense.

By heeding the following curated list of five top tips, your journey to buying and driving off in your ‘new’ second-hand vehicle should be a seamless experience.  

#1 Set your budget

“How much can I REALLY afford?” Analysing your budget constraints and crunching the numbers is ALWAYS the first step to buying a second-hand car. What you can afford needs to guide your search. When determining your costs, you should also factor in monthly expenses such as insurance, maintenance and running costs, and fuel prices. 

Don’t be afraid to negotiate the advertised price and never feel pressured to sign an OTP (Offer to Purchase). Be willing to walk away if you are not happy. (There are lots of second-hand cars out there). 

#2 Balance work and play

Your lifestyle requirements will clearly be a determining factor as to the type of used car you should buy. And once your budget is set, you get to play a little with the options out there. 

Choose the right second hand vehicle to match your lifestyle

  • Love trekking to the bush over weekends? A (compact) SUV or 4×4 will likely be on your radar. 
  • Family growing? A small hatchback will probably need to give way to a bigger sedan. 
  • Empty nester? Perhaps now is the time to buy a second-hand low-slung sports car. 
  • Student heading off to university? A small used car is the best all-round solution for this life stage. 
  • Starting your own construction business or semigrating a farm? A second-hand bakkie is an obvious solution.

#3 Be a sleuth

After narrowing down your shortlist to a few options that fit your budget constraints and lifestyle priorities, now is the time to do your homework. 

This involves research and reviews. 

Researching the used car you want to buy by looking up the make and model and digging a little deeper as to the pros and cons of the vehicle of your choice could potentially save you money (and headaches) down the road. Some cars hold their value better than others. 

ALWAYS check the car’s accident and service history (Most online platforms for buying cars also have the option to check it out, in person, at their warehouse). 

Reading reviews will flag any potential problems or issues with a specific dealer. Go ahead and leverage the Hello Peter platform to check their ratings and trust index

Be picky about who you buy from and stick to a reputable dealer or online car-selling platform. This is probably the biggest mitigating factor against being ‘taken for a ride.’ Here, again, your sleuthing skills will prove invaluable.

#4 Take the car for a spin

Booking a test drive is the best way for any discerning buyer to make an informed choice when buying a used car. This is your one-time opportunity to get a feel for the car and test its acceleration, braking and handling. Try to check it out in different road situations e.g., quiet roads, motorways and bumpy roads – not just around the block! Pay attention to any unusual sounds or vibrations, which could indicate mechanical problems.

Your in-person car checklist should also include looking for signs of wear and tear, rust or damage and checking the vehicle’s mileage and tyres. (This all links back to point #1 when it comes to negotiating the price). 

Top tips for buying a used car

#5 Insist on a paper trail

Before signing on the dotted line, you need to make sure that all the paperwork is in order: car registration, roadworthy certificate and transfer of ownership documents. (This speaks to point #3 concerning dealing with a reputable online platform or dealer). 

As a buyer of a used car, you also have the right to request the mechanical inspection report and the vehicle’s history. 

Purchasing a second-hand car is a big spend and you never want to end up with buyer’s remorse. Taking the above 5 non-negotiable steps seriously will guide you to buy the right car at the right price.