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Hey all, this time, we’re going to do something different. Instead of tech, we’re going to talk about cars. Why, because again, this blog’s initial purpose is all about sharing, and what I want to share with you guys right now, is some tips on buying a used car.
While new cars are more superior in terms of technology, performance, and peace of mind (in Indonesia, some manufacturers give you up to 5 years of regular maintenance free of charge, in terms of both service and parts), used cars can give you a higher-class car for a lower price, or save you some cash. For example, you can get a used 2019 BMW X1 for the price of a brand new Toyota Corolla Cross, or even cheaper.
But, buying used cars can be a bit of a gamble if you don’t have sufficient knowledge about cars. In this article, I’m going to share some tips that you can use when you’re browsing for a used car in a showroom, based on my own experiences, compiled from various tips found on YouTube, Quora, and other helpful sites.
Disclaimer, though, is that I’m also a novice in cars, but these tips helped me score a used 2018 Honda BR-V in 2022 in a very acceptable condition, and while these tips are written with Indonesian market in mind, you might find it useful in your country.
Get A Price Estimate on Used Cars
We’re very fortunate to live in the age of the Internet. It’s very easy to find and compare listings for various items, from trivial ones like cooking utensils to major ones like cars or even houses. At least in Indonesia, there are various sites that specialize at selling used cars, such as OLX, Carro, and Carsome. You can use these sites to get an estimate of how much your used car should cost.
Check Used Cars’ Condition
This is the tricky part. If you’re planning to buy used cars from a showroom, there’s a chance that they have strict procedures on which items they can procure. Otherwise, it’s up to you to inspect and decide whether the car is in good condition or not. Nevertheless, it never hurts to personally inspect on your own, right? Especially if you’re planning to use it for a long term. Here are a few tips I can give when checking a car’s condition. Of course, I’m no specialist, feel free to correct or add more tips in the comments, then I’ll update this article accordingly.
This one should be easy. Watch for physical anomalies such as dents, cracks, scratches, and difference in paint. Also, don’t forget to check inside the engine hood. Please make sure that there are no dents in the car’s frame and inside the engine hood.
The reason for this is mainly because dents or even cracks indicate that the car might have been involved in an accident. Normally, used car showrooms will not accept any cars that have been in an accident for safety reasons (or they might, but would decrease the price significantly). One thing that I can think of is that one of those dents might affect the car’s internals. This may result in component malfunctions, or worst case scenario, electrical shortages and damages to your engine.
Another thing that you can check is the car’s tire conditions. I know that tires are consumable, but if a car’s tires are in need of a replacement, you might be able to negotiate a lower price, saying that you’ll need to replace the tires very soon. One way to check for the tires is by looking at the Tire Wear Indicator (TWI). TWI is a special “bump” on your tire that indicates if your tire is already exhausted. A brand new tire will usually have TWI of 7-9mm. 2mm or less is considered as exhausted and in need of a replacement.
Additionally, don’t forget to check what’s inside the engine hood. Once you got the hood open, check the engine’s physical conditions, especially all the cables and hoses, and whether there’s any leak beneath the car. Any leak is bad news and potentially dangerous.
Last, but not least, please check if all of the car’s lights and wipers are functioning normally. Some higher end cars may even have automatic headlamp system. Again, you may negotiate for a lower price if any of it is broken.
Now that you’ve checked the outside, let’s check the inside. Right off the bat, some people may choose to protect the original seats and steering wheels with covers. Please don’t hesitate to ask the seller to remove them to get the real condition of the items. Sometimes, even though it’s covered, it may be used to hide the item’s real conditions.
The next thing to check if there’s any strange smell or wet marks throughout the interior. Why, because those indicates that the car may have been flooded in the past. Just like accidents, cars that were flooded are usually outright rejected by used car sellers because of the potential risk, and you should too. Besides the rusting internals, the water may also damage your engine, or even worse, cause electrical shortages.
Aside from those two, please check the other functionalities as well, such as cabin lights, sound, memory and electrical seats (if any), etc. Oh, and please make sure that you’re going to be comfortable spending a few hours in the car, since the next thing you should do, is test drive it.
Now that you’ve checked both the car’s interior and exterior (and seems to be satisfied), it’s time to take it for a spin. As used cars’ worth is really dependent on the mileage, you might not be allowed to take it to the highway, but at least you should take it to a location that has the following:
- Ramp, to test the engine’s strength and acceleration.
- Gravel and uneven roads, to test the car’s suspension and whether the lower arms and joints are in good condition.
- Turns, to test the car’s stability.
Also, while at it, please make sure that you test the following:
- Brakes, for obvious safety reasons.
- Alerts and information shown in the dashboard and MID, yet for another obvious safety reasons.
- External noises, funny noises, abnormal vibrations which may indicate that something might be wrong with the suspension and joints.
- Air conditioning, making sure that there’s no funny smell and it’s still hot / cold depending on the setting.
If you feel that something is off, maybe you can ask the seller about it, or do one of the following alternatives in the next section.
While above tasks may seem to be tiresome, learning to appraise your future car is certainly a good investment. In case you’re like me, and unsure whether your judgment is on point, there are alternatives that you can use for second opinion:
The first one is to get the car to any official / authorized workshop. Usually they’ll charge a small fee for a general checkup, and you’ll get a detailed report about the overall condition of the vehicle.
The second one is to use third-party car inspection service. In Indonesia, at least, many major used car showrooms have partnered with them to make sure that the cars they sell are of good quality. Usually they’ll have quite a detailed report, along with images to proof the report’s validity.
Check Used Cars’ Documentations and Paperwork
Now that you’ve made sure that the car’s condition is to your liking, the final thing to check is the car’s own legality. This includes the service records and governmental paperworks.
Service records proof that the car’s previous owner correctly maintains the vehicle by servicing it regularly. This includes regular oil and air filter changes, and maintaining the brakes, radiators, etc. Poorly maintained vehicles will certainly cost you sooner or later, either monetarily, or worse… will refuse to function altogether.
As for governmental paperworks, I don’t think I need to explain further, do I? This is to make sure that the previous owner is legitimate, and the car is purchased and owned legally. This includes the vehicle’s registration documents and license plates, which you should be able to verify through your local authorities. If the seller cannot provide you with all of these, well, you know you need to back off, right?
Also, car manufacturers should give you a spare key when you buy new cars. Make sure that you get all of them when you buy a used car. If not, well, I’d tell you to back off, since someone out there may have access to your car. While replacing your car’s immobilizer / keyless mechanism is possible, it’s not cheap, and I don’t think it’s worth the cost.
If you found any anomaly after checking the car, don’t hesitate to discuss it with the seller. A good seller will not try to deceive, or prevent you from asking these questions. I’d rather find another seller than risking my life.
Well, that’s all for now, Folks. I hope these tips are useful for you. Buying a car should bring joy, regardless of it being used or brand new, since it opens up a whole new possibilities of your life ahead. I know because that happened to me. Anyway, if you have any questions, or even some tips that can be further added in this article, don’t hesitate to sound them off in the comments section below; I’ll do my best to answer them. Finally, as usual, thanks for reading and see you in the next article! 😀