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It’s no secret that nowadays things are getting more and more expensive, which is the reason why many people would rather buy second hand items which are value for money rather than splurge on brand new goods.

It’s no different when it comes to shopping for cars, many people would opt for buying a used car rather than a new one for the obvious advantages it offers such as their lower prices, slower depreciation rate and the fact that it offers a great flexibility in affordability and availability.

However looking for the perfect used car can be a complicated and daunting process. If you don’t know what to lookout for you could end up buying a problem vehicle that ends up costing you extra money you didn’t anticipate on spending. It’s even worse for a person buying a car for the first time as they have not been exposed to cars and therefore wouldn’t know what to look for in a car during an inspection.  Also, unscrupulous salespeople may end up taking advantage of their naivety and sell them something that’s totally impractical and expensive to maintain.

To help you avoid these pitfalls we’ve compiled a list of the top things to look out for when you’re out car shopping: 

  • All cars have to pass a roadworthy test, so first things first always check that the vehicle you are interested in has a roadworthy certificate, however don’t take the word of the seller, ask to see it.
  • Check that the vehicle has got its identity numbers, every vehicle has three of these namely; the identity number, the VIN (engine) and the Chassis number.
  • Ask to see the vehicle’s service history, this is to check if the car has been going for regular services – if it has it’s a sign that it’s in good condition, also check to see if it has a warranty and for how long this will last
  • Check to see if the car has been in any accidents, by inspecting the bodywork, do this by running your hands on the car, check for misaligned body panels, check for different coloured panels, and for mismatching paintwork as well as for cracks and or chips.
  • Check the engine of the car, for any leaks, damage of the pipes or cracks of any sort. If you don’t know anything about car engines it’s a good idea to take somebody who does along with. They should be able to lookout out for any leakages, breakages and or corrosion of the engine as well as any other signs of wear and tear. They should also inspect the condition of the fan belt, the cam belt as well as the timing belt – these should look solid, fresh and supple, and not old and dry as it means they are at risk of snapping and replacing these could run into thousands of rands.
  • Check the interior of the vehicle, from the seats, the dashboard and the centre console, you want to ensure that everything is working properly and still in good condition – rips and tears should ring alarm bells, especially if the seller has said the age of the vehicle is younger. If you spot something that’s not in order raise it immediately.
  • Take the car out for a test drive, when you get to do this, pay particular attention to the following; brakes, listen out for any noises as the disc brakes could be finished. Do emergency stops, swerve side to side, listen out for any unusual sounds or rattles. Turn the radio off and drive really slowly stopping and going to also see how the car responds.
  • If it’s a private sale, check that the contact details are not advertising more than one car; this could be a sign of a person who is running a dealership. Also do a background check of the previous owner, just to make sure that they are who they say they are, it’ll also give you a sense of ease knowing you’re dealing with a legitimate individual.

Once you have checked the car thoroughly and are interested in it, be sure to document every defect you have picked up as this will help you when the time comes for you to negotiate the price of the car. Also, this will help you to avoid buying a car that looks good from the outside but is actually troublesome. Once you have purchased the vehicle that you’re happy with, you can contact Auto & General Insurance for vehicle cover that offers quality service and is reliable and affordable.

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