Buying a secondhand car? Take these 10 tips


With new-car sales hitting an all-time high, the secondhand car market has become important to the automotive industry as vehicle owners today opt to change cars every five years or so. And there are also a good number of units being repossessed by banks.

Without the secondhand-car market, it would be hard for automotive companies to sell new vehicles because eventually, motorists would also have to dispose of their current ride for a new steed. A number of dealerships also have their own “pre-owned” marketing program that helps new-car buyers raise needed cash for a new vehicle.

So, it is obvious the secondhand-car market is also important to automotive firms. Not only does it allow them to sell new cars to present car owners, it can also help motorists decide which brand they will choose once they have enough funds.

But buying a used vehicle has more challenges than buying a brand-new one, except that it needs substantially less cash.

The worst thing that can happen to a motorist is buying a secondhand vehicle that breaks down in the first year of ownership. To help you avoid a bad used car, Fast Times would like to offer these 10 tips.

1. Buy from a car dealership. There are dealers that have a “pre-owned” sales program where secondhand vehicles of the same brand are offered for sale. Since dealerships do not want to lose face for selling lemons, they usually make sure the used cars they sell are well maintained with complete service records.

The secondhand units being sold at dealerships, however, are priced higher than those that can be bought directly from owners, because these vehicles have been checked and assured by the dealership to deliver years of useful service to its next owner. Also, some dealerships offer a warranty for their secondhand cars. Financing is also offered by some of these dealers.

2. Buy from a reputable outlet. Large car lots and websites can also be a good source of used vehicles. Again, service records must be available for the vehicle to be considered for purchase. Look for feedback from other customers.

3. Know what type of vehicle to buy. What type of car to buy—or, to be specific, the type of vehicle that fulfills your needs—is crucial when acquiring a secondhand vehicle. So buying a four-door compact sedan when you need seating capacity for at least seven people could be a foolish choice. Or buying a used midsize SUV would not be appropriate if you couldn’t afford its high maintenance costs.

So decide on how many seats you need in a vehicle. In the Philippines, going around or out of town is not only a family activity, but one that includes grandparents, cousins and other relatives besides the immediate family members.

4. Narrow your brand choices. Choosing from four to five brands for a certain vehicle can cause you to contemplate and contemplate on your secondhand car purchase, to the point where it is delayed or doesn’t push through. So narrow your brand choices to two or three. Of course, choose the best brands for a certain vehicle segment.

5. Check the car yourself. Always insist on test-driving the vehicle around the block. A person or entity selling a used vehicle will surely allow a test drive if the vehicle is in good condition. Just make sure not to get into an accident.

Also, check the condition of the interior and, more important, the engine. Engine oil that smells as if it was burned means the vehicle is usually driven fast. Also, a less viscous automatic transmission fluid may mean the owner is not observing the proper way to drive a car with AT, or is being a daredevil behind the wheel.

Check the age and mileage of the vehicle. Surprisingly, there are secondhand cars that still run well and can offer years of relatively trouble-free service even if they are more than 10 years old or have logged almost 100,000 kilometers. But if you have enough funds, go for a vehicle with 50,000-70,000 kilometers of use and less than 10 years of existence.

If you are not competent enough to check a used vehicle, then we strongly suggest you do this next tip…

6. Bring along your trusted mechanic. A competent and trusted mechanic can perform a thorough check on a vehicle better than a motorist who has yet to get his or her hands dirty fixing something underneath the hood. Your trusted mechanic can also determine if a vehicle has been involved in an accident resulting in structural damage.

7. Research, research, research. Thanks to the Internet, it is easier for secondhand-car buyers to get information about new and used vehicles. Besides forums and posts online, get information from websites that rate used vehicles. You can get loads of information especially from those based in the United States.

8. Automatic or manual? With the worsening (or slightly improving, depending on how you see it) traffic in Metro Manila, AT vehicles are selling in greater numbers than before. However, there are motorists who still want a vehicle with a manual tranny for a livelier driving experience.

9. Ask around. If you have narrowed down your choices, it’s also better to ask actual owners of the vehicles you are eyeing about their ownership experiences. Ask questions regarding maintenance costs, durability, fuel economy, comfort and drivability, among others.

10. Set a realistic budget. This may be the most important tip to remember because budget will determine what type of vehicle to buy. But if you find a secondhand car offered by a dealership too hard to resist, consider financing of up to three years. Just be sure the secondhand vehicle can serve you well for more than five years if it is purchased through financing.

While the secondhand-car market is sometimes seen as a market for those who do not have the means to buy a brand-new car, there are actually moneyed motorists who still find buying a used unit to be a wiser option. Then there are affluent people who would rather buy a secondhand car and deck it out later with accessories or give it a very different look.

So buying a pre-owned car can be a good idea. Just make sure to get a good one that can give you years of trouble-free service.


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