Buying a car is exciting and liberating, however it’s important that you buy something that is in good condition, reliable and worth your money. Whether you are buying a new or used vehicle, there are several key questions you can ask the seller to learn more about the condition of the car.

Using your senses can also provide some insight into the reliability of your potential new vehicle. Ideally, you are looking for the greatest value quality car for the best price. Some might say the lowest price but that poses unnecessary buying risks. Often the cheapest cars compared to other similar models selling can be in poorer condition, have travelled above average kilometres and have a poor service and maintenance  history. That’s why they are the cheapest priced car. So don’t  let a low price and a perceived great deal be the only deciding factor. Read on to learn about how you can inspect your next vehicle before you make a purchase. 

Verbal assessment

Talk to the seller about the condition of the vehicle. Begin by asking them why they are selling. Usually, private sellers say they are upgrading or no longer have need for the vehicle. Be wary if someone is selling on behalf of someone else or if they cannot provide a definite reason. Be wary if the car is being sold after a short period of ownership.

Are there signs that the car has been involved in a serious accident and the seller is quickly trying to on sell it after being repaired? Could the car be an Economic Repairable Write-off? Has the car recently been  re-registered with a current rego plate? A possible indicator the car may have been off the road for some time. Next, ask if there is anything you should know about the vehicle that wasn’t indicated in the advertisement or photos.

Ask about the kilometres travelled and service history. High kilometres isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the vehicle has been serviced regularly or has driven a high percentage of highway kilometres. However, extremely high kilometres impose higher wear and tear risks and this combined with a poor maintenance and service history could be a recipe for costly repairs. Be more weary of purchasing a  vehicle that hasn’t been serviced on time!

Physical checks

Make sure the vehicle in question has a valid Roadworthy Certificate (RWC). This ensures that the vehicle is mechanically safe for you and others on the road. The VIN needs to match the number on the certificate. You can also  carry out an online PPSR check at minimal cost with your relevant Road Traffic Authority like VicRoads that will indicate whether the car has been previously stolen, is still subject to finance or was a previous an Economic Repairable Write-off. 

Have a thorough look through the service logbook to make sure the services were carried out at the appropriate number of kilometers. If you can sight original service receipts with details of actual repairs and components serviced this gives even more clarity and confidence beyond a basic stamped service logbook. Often these service receipts include comments by the service mechanic that indicate future items that may need replacing in the next service. These go beyond a basic RWC that focuses on specific components of a car.  This may be taken into account when negotiating a price with the seller, especially where a timing belt or transmission service may arise early in the potential ownership of the vehicle.  

Inside the vehicle

Look inside the car to make sure that the interior upholstery and trim are in good condition. Quite often repair costs in replacing interior components can be more costly than mechanical repair costs. Excessive wear and tear may include burn holes and mould or mildew. Check the boot for any unusual damage or wear. Vehicles that have been rear-ended often display damage where the spare tyre is kept. Seat belts should be intact with working clasps.

 Check all the features and extra options work properly in the car. Some of these items do not fall under a RWC and may be costly to repair once you have purchased the car. Aircon and the sound system should be in good working order if that is how the vehicle was listed!

Engine and fluids

Look and listen to the engine while the vehicle is idling. It should sound smooth without any unnecessary shaking. Have a look at your oil and coolant levels. Fluids keep your vehicle running efficiently, and are crucial to the safety of your vehicle. Additionally, check the battery for corrosion and make sure all tubes are in good condition.

A handy tip before inspection is to insist with the seller that the car is not  started up before the scheduled inspection. You want a cold start up of the engine. Many problems can be hidden or masked once a car is warmed up. Excessive smoke from the tailpipe may indicate excessive wear and tear in the engine or rough idle some more serious fuel or electrical system issues. 

Exterior inspection 

Walk around the car and look for any signs of damage or unusual wear. Tyres should have a good amount of tread and level tyre pressure. Look for inconsistencies in paint; if the vehicle has been involved in an accident, the paint has likely been resprayed. 

Check there have not been any aftermarket modifications to the car such as lowered suspensions or engine modifications that go beyond manufactures specifications. This may pose a problem for seeking car insurance or subsequently incur higher premiums than a standard non- modified vehicle. Finally, check that all the signals, headlights, and taillights are in working order!

If you are not familiar or do not have the expertise or knowledge to assess the car during a test drive you can always invite an experienced friend with mechanical knowledge to accompany you. Alternatively, you can engage a professional 3rd party service provider like RACV, VACC, REPCO,  Redbook etc… to carry out a Pre- Purchase Inspection (PPI) on a car that you seriously consider buying.

An extensive PPI Report after a test drive will highlight the condition of the vehicle’s mechanics, engine, body and interior and whether there appears to be any indications of accident history. The Report usually comes with comments and rates the car. This can provide independent confidence in assessing the car and is like an insurance policy when engaged in the buying process for the buyer against purchasing a potential lemon of a car.

My Next Car Buying Advocacy

Purchasing your next car can be intimidating if you’re not sure what to look for. While many sellers are honest and reputable, others are looking to maximise their own profit at your cost. Buying a car is not about making a perfect decision, it is really about risk management. Checking all the boxes that ensure you are buying the best car for you that will best suit your needs.

For the buying process to go well it is also about establishing trust and managing relationships between both seller and buyer so you get the best, trouble free outcome and experiences. If you aren’t sure that you are getting the best deal, get in touch with a professional car buying advocate in Melbourne. They will provide professional and experienced advice, helping you get the best deal on your next car. The team will advocate for you and your needs. Feel confident about your next vehicle purchase with help from My Next Car Buying Advocacy.

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