The World of Used Cars – Tricks of the Trade


Buying a second-hand car can be a huge challenge, especially if you don’t know the first thing about cars. In order to avoid getting ripped off, the best advice is to take along a long-term friend who is a mechanic. Most people know someone who fixes cars, and if you can convince them to give you their time, you’ll be sure to get a great deal.

Bringing a professional with you to help look over any car you’re interested in purchasing is an obvious solution to reduce the risk of getting scammed, but even if you don’t know a mechanic who can spare the time to go car shopping with you, there are still things that you can look for to help you get the best deal.

Tips for buying a second-hand car

Ask lots of questions

This is the very first thing you should do whilst browsing over the car, or on the phone if you’re looking online. This will give you a good idea about how much the owner knows about the car’s history, it may also give away tell-tale signs that the salesman isn’t being completely truthful.

Typical questions you should ask include:-

  • How long have they owned the car?
  • Will it meet the requirements of a roadworthy certificate (RWC)?
  • Has is ever been in an accident?
  • Does it have any bad habits?
  • What is the reason for selling it on?

Check the car’s history

Checking the car’s history can tell you everything you need to know about the vehicle. But in many cases, it’s not as easy as simply looking over the car, it may also require a little research comparing the information in the car’s documents with the car itself.

Aside from wear and tear, there are several deceiving tactics that you should be on the lookout for.

Clocking – This is the practice of winding back the millage on the clock so it appears to have travelled less distance than it actually has. The typical car does around 10,000 miles each year, so check the date and the millage to make sure they roughly add up. Vehicle inspection certificates are regulated on a state-by-state basis, so depending on where you live, you may be able to see the millage history that is recorded as part of the inspection. If you live in a state that has more relaxed rules about certification (RWC) then you may just have to do the maths and see if it adds up.

Cloning – Cars can be given different identities by simply switching the number plates. This is often done to hide the car’s history, generally for bogus reasons. All engines have serial numbers that should match the information on the vehicle documents. If these numbers have been removed or are not the same, then it’s clear that the car is not the one the document says it is.

Cut and Shut – This is when a car has literally been pieced together from different cars. The build quality is usually outstanding and unnoticeable from the outside, which can make it difficult to spot when browsing over it. The best way to avoid buying car that isn’t cut and shut is to use a reputable car dealer, and if you’re still unsure, you can even pay for a car history check, which can be well worth the cost if you’re buying a luxury car.

If you keep those points in mind, and do your research on any car you’re interested in purchasing, then you should be able to find yourself one of the many great value used cars on the market.


Jon Mills

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