A rapidly growing market for new cars can only mean one thing: a rapidly growing market for used cars. Buying a pre-owned car makes a lot of sense even if it isn’t as straightforward as buying new. Peace of mind is hard to find while shopping for a pre-owned car and the chances of getting fleeced are high.
STEP ONE : Homework
- Which car?
After deciding on your price range you should outline what sort of car best meets your needs – if you are a family of two you shouldn’t bother buying a large MUV like the Toyota Innova. With a growing range of makes and models you will probably find that several cars fit your budget. Analyze your needs before you decide on a car.
- Which model?
A little research will reveal the makes and models that fit your budget. In India, Japanese cars enjoy the best long-term resale value because of their reliability, but diesel cars also sell well on the second-hand market. Reliability should be high on your checklist; research it by looking at the quality ratings of each car. The Team-BHP forums have a comprehensive databank and archive of user reviews that can help you decide. Remember: a car that wasn’t reliable new won’t be reliable used.
- Which source?
The Internet, used car dealers, brokers, authorized dealers, newspaper ads and personal referrals can show you what’s available. It’s generally a good idea to interact directly with the previous owner, so the Internet and print classifieds are great sources of good deals on used cars.
- Which finance?
Cash is king, but there are many financing companies able to offer loans for your used car purchase. Bear in mind that interest rates for loans on used cars are higher than those for new cars.
STEP TWO : Things to keep in mind
It’s best to choose a car with a fully documented service history. A car that has been maintained exclusively at a single authorized service station should score very high on your rating. A good way to find out about previous accident damage is to contact the seller’s regular service station or insurance company.
- Certified Cars:
Some car manufacturers and dealerships offer certified used cars. These pre-owned cars go through detailed checks where defective and worn-out parts are replaced. A well refurbished certified car may well be worth the extra price, but some certified cars dealers only perform superficial work and have been known to commit petty frauds like odometer tampering.
Some dealerships offer warranties on their used cars. Try to get as much information as you can about the warranty coverage, duration and other terms and conditions.
- Great unpopular cars:
Many reliable cars just weren’t popular when they were new; in the second-hand market these are often great bargains. The fifth generation Honda Accord and Fiat Palio 1.6 are just two of the many bargain models available.
- Never buy a modified car:
You can be certain a modified car was driven “enthusiastically” by its previous owner and there can be uncertainty about the quality of the modifications. Walk away from any highly modified car.
- Avoid certain discontinued models:
Cars like the Opel Astra and the Ford Escort suffer from an inconsistent supply of spares, high maintenance costs and terrible resale value. Don’t even consider buying a car whose manufacturer no longer exists.
- Repossessed cars:
A car that has been repossessed by a finance company is bad news. It will be difficult to procure the Certificate of Registration and the original owner may make trouble even if you do get the car transferred to your name.
- Lightly used cars:
A car that is ten years old with only 30,000 km on the odometer is probably not a good buy. Cars are built to run and long periods of inactivity cause problems.
- Repainted cars:
A car less than five years old that has been repainted should prompt questions. Was it because of an accident or was it just for cosmetic purposes?
STEP THREE : Checking Out the Car
- Expert friend:
If you don’t know much about cars, bring a knowledgeable friend or mechanic with you. They may discover problems unknown to you and a second opinion can be helpful.
- Call before you leave:
Clarify all the details about a car before you travel any distance to see it. This will save you precious time if you discover the car isn’t worth looking at.
Always examine a car in broad daylight; darkness can conceal obvious damage.
- Cold Start:
A cold engine will give away far more than one that has reached operating temperatures. Insist on starting the car from cold, and work the engine up yourself.
Carefully check a car’s original documentation for discrepancies. This is also a good time to go through the car’s service history to see how it has been maintained – service records are very important. Some documents that you should verify include:
1. RTO tax receipt: This is now a one-time tax and the original owner should pay it.
2. Registration of the car: Check for the state of registration and see if the letters “DRC” appear on it anywhere. DRC means Duplicate Registration Certificate.
3. Insurance: Check whether the insurance is comprehensive or basic third-party and when it will expire.
4. Original invoice: Take a look at the car’s original invoice. Details like the chassis and engine numbers can be found here.
5. Finance NOC: If you are looking at a financed car, make sure that the NOC is available. Cross-check with the finance company directly to make sure that the NOC is genuine and there is no loan outstanding on the car.
- Odometer tampering:
Artificially lowering a car’s odometer is a common malpractice in the used market. Most cars sold by dealers from the unorganized segment have had their odometers clocked back. Audit the service records for inconsistencies. Call the dealer / workshop (where the car was maintained) to procure historical data on the car’s odometer readings at each visit (dealers always maintain these records). The date of tyre manufacture may also indicate the actual mileage traveled.
- Verify Engine size:
There are far too many smaller engine variants being rebadged, and sold off as, larger engines (e.g. Honda 1.3 being sold as a 1.5). Ensure that the car is indeed the variant that you wish to buy. Check engine details in the registration & insurance documents for starters. Also decode the VIN (see point below).
- Verify date of Manufacture:
Almost every car has a “Vehicle Identification Number” mentioned at several places on the body. Note this VIN down, and decode it online. The decoded information will tell you about the car, including the year of manufacture.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover:
Even if a car looks like a great bargain, don’t get too excited. Calmly check to make sure that the beauty is more than skin deep.
- Comprehensive test drive:
Switch off the stereo and drive the car under as many conditions as possible: bumper-to-bumper traffic, open highways, inclines and declines.
- The mechanic’s word:
A mechanic’s judgment may be the most valuable piece of information available to you. Have a trusted mechanic look over the car for accident damage and to check its overall condition. Invest the small amount of money to have an authorized dealership run a complete check of the car.
STEP FOUR : After checking out the car:
Verbal agreements are worthless. Make sure the seller puts all of his commitments in writing.
- No Pressure:
As the buyer you have the luxury of refusing to purchase a car that doesn’t suit you. Do not allow the person selling the car to pressure you into agreeing to something you don’t like. You would be surprised how many people give in to argumentative salespeople.
Remember – the ball is in your court and the buyer is king. No used car has a fixed price and the price you will get is directly related to your negotiating skills. Ask a friend or relative to help if you are not comfortable negotiating alone.
- Fake owners:
Watch out for sellers who have just bought a car to make a quick buck on the resale. If the form is already signed (or the “owner” hesitates to sign on the delivery note) it is a sign that you are dealing with a broker.
- Duplicate keys:
Insist on a duplicate key with delivery.
Very important. Please have the insurance transferred to your name upon delivery. Many forget to transfer the insurance coverage (along with the RC book entry) and face a problem if and when an accident / theft takes place. Unless the insurance is transferred to your name, you have absolutely no coverage (on paper).
Bargain on the brokerage fees. Though most charge 2% of the sales price it is easy to bring the fee down to half of that.
- Delivery Note & Transfer Papers:
When taking delivery of the car, record the date, time and odometer reading on the Delivery Note. This will ensure that any outstanding liabilities on the car prior to that date will be the seller’s responsibility.
- Complete Service:
We recommend that, upon delivery, you must get the car entirely serviced and all fluids / filters / belts changed (as necessary).