What to Look for When Buying a Car

For all of human history, people have been using tools to help them travel faster and further. For thousands of years, animals like horses and donkeys were the way we travelled when it was too far for walking.

As the industrial revolution got underway, people started looking to use the new technology to create new modes of transport like bicycles, trains, trams and eventually cars.

Nowadays we rely heavily on all of these modes of transport to work, rest and play. Gone are the days when we relied on horses to get around; instead these steeds are reserved for farming, hobbyists and racing (as in the legendary Melbourne Cup, a race that Cross Counter is currently the favourite to win).

Buying a car is often a very exciting time, as you search for a new pride and joy to cruise around in. For some, there’s nothing like climbing inside to enjoy that distinct new car smell. For others, getting a bargain, second-hand car is the perfect way to get a feature-packed motor without the same cost as one that’s just rolled out of the factory. Here’s what to look out for when you’re buying a car.

Check the Vehicle’s History

The history of the vehicle can often tell the story of how it has been treated and how it has been maintained, giving an indication as to how it is likely to perform in the future. It is also important to check if the vehicle has been stolen, as otherwise you will have given up your hard-earned cash for something you won’t legally own.

For a fee of just $2.00, you can use the online or Assisted Phone Service to undertake a Quick Motor Vehicle Search with the Personal Property Securities Register. This will also help you to see whether there is any outstanding debt on the vehicle, which is important, since it could be repossessed by the finance company even though you have paid for it. To undertake the search, you just need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Always conduct the search on the day you buy the car (or the day before), as this will give you legal protection should anything crop up later that wasn’t revealed by the search.

Another trick is to check that the VIN matches up in several places. It is usually written at the bottom of the windscreen, under the bonnet and somewhere on the metalwork near the driver’s seat. These should all be the same number and all correspond with the vehicle’s registration document. You may also want to check car reviews online to understand common problems with that particular model.

Check How Much it’s Worth

The values of cars can vary according to many factors, such as the state of the body work, its service history, its mechanical soundness, and current market conditions. Don’t take the word of any salesperson on its own; check the value of similar vehicles online to help guide you as to the ballpark you should be playing in.

Look Closely

Never buy a car online without seeing it first. Always arrange for a viewing during the daytime, when it isn’t raining (if possible). Darkness and water can often hide dents and scratches, so this will help you to spot these more easily. Always inspect the vehicle for signs of rust in the body work, under the car and under the bonnet. If it has been parked for a while, check for any obvious oil leaks under the car.

Make sure you take it for a test drive as well. Any seller who doesn’t want you to drive the car first is likely trying to hide something. Test all of the lights, electronics, and wipers; use all gears; and, if possible, test the handbrake by parking on an incline. Make sure that all of the windows and doors open and close fully, the locks work, all seatbelts function properly and the spare wheel is still where it is supposed to be. Also check that the tyres are not worn unevenly or otherwise damaged; uneven wear can indicate that the wheels are not aligned properly. Ask the seller questions about its history. If they don’t know or are cagey with their answers, this should be a red flag.

Most car sales are smooth and problem-free, and by considering the factors above you can help protect yourself from being one of the unfortunate few who do have problems. Remember that if something doesn’t seem right, then it might be best to trust your instincts. There’s no harm in going away to think it over, and anyone pressuring you to buy immediately is likely doing so for a reason. Most importantly, make sure you enjoy your new wheels when you do make the purchase!

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