Saturday, January 16, 2010

Buying A Used Car

IN the market for a new car for the new year? You might want to check out this piece that I wrote for GARAGE magazine last year before taking the plunge.


YOU’RE in the market for a new car, quite possibly your very first vehicle. But then you suddenly realized a few things. You don’t have enough budget for a brand new vehicle. You don’t know anything about cars. And you either don’t know where to look or what to really look for.

This is why it is not uncommon advice for you to instead consider a used or pre-owned vehicle as your first car. Segunda mano, in the vernacular. True, a used car is not as clean, not as fresh and certainly not as smooth as new cars. And it cannot and will not have the same level of performance of its spanking new counterpart since it has already covered several thousand miles and probably all kinds of roads.

But it’s also true that a good number of used cars do look just as good and if (well-maintained by the seller) perform just as well as their brand-new counterparts while available at more desirable price tags that suit your budget.

What to look for

As most buyers of second-hand cars we interviewed will attest, doing one’s homework is the key to getting a very good used car deal. Autolink Philippines (, an online auto resource says the first thing you need is to determine your needs: “If you are buying the car for yourself, are you looking for something used primarily for commuting, or for work? Are you looking for a status symbol? Then a compact car, sports car or pickup may suit you. Do you have children?” and so on.

“Choose a car that fits your lifestyle and contributes to your functionality and productivity,” adds Charlie, a self-styled middle man for Luxury Car sellers. “Whether brand-new or second hand, what matters most is you get a car you’ll enjoy driving and riding. You have to like the car and not just be influenced by reviews or what other people say about it. That means getting a feel for the car and see if it is right for you.”, another online auto resource says “shopping for a used car is not really as easy as buying a new car. Never trust your instincts in buying used cars. Getting a thorough review of the car will help you find a good buy.”

And by thorough review, that means doing your homework. For starters, beauty is very much skin deep even and especially when it comes to used vehicles. “Don't just fall in love with the car based on its looks,” cautions Lizette Manalo, a US-based businesswoman who engages in online buying and selling at under the username iluvukay. “Inspect under the hood. Some simple checkings can give you better judgment of how the owner has treated the vehicle.”

What’s under the hood

Lizette says engine issues are expected with second hand cars. “Due diligence can keep one from buying a lemon car and can keep you from being stuck with hefty repair bills that are mostly unnecessary,” she says. “First, you need to check oil and transmission oil. If they’re dark and grimy, that means the owner might be negligent with oil changes. If the air filter is black then it’s dirty.”

If you make a checklist, then Lizette also suggests a few more questions that you’ll want answered when checking out a used car. “Are there leaks under the car? Are there unnecessary noises that shouldn’t be there when you test drive it? Do the brakes work well and does it squeak when you step on them? Do the car shift smoothly? Does it overheat as shown by the temperature needle drastically shifting to high after driving for a while? Does the airconditioning work? Gauges? Electricals like headlights, taillights and wipers? Does the car have starting issues that can possibly be caused by a dying alternator, battery or others? How much tire meat is left? What kind of repairs, major or minor, has the owner done to it?”

Autolink adds that knowing a used car history (i.e. “totaled in an accident/salvaged, flood damage, odometer rollbacks, lemon histories, junked titles, state emissions inspection results, lien activity, and/or vehicle use”) is also very important not just in determining its true worth but also in getting a good idea on how much mileage and usage does it still have in its tank.

Who to take with you

If you don’t have enough confidence in determining these things on your own, then by all means, get your own mechanic (make sure, he’s a really good one at that, too) to check out the car for you. Listen to Lizette: “If the owner would agree to take the car with to a mechanic, or have a tune-up done by a pro, then tune ups can pretty much tell you some issues that your plain eyes and intuition cannot see.”

There are always certain risks involved when buying a used car, or any used item for that matter. Maricel Tan Chong, another businesswoman who has owned several cars over the years and has bought both brand new and used vehicles advices only to buy from people you already know. “Unless you personally know the owner of the car you are buying and the history of the car itself, there is a great risk of driving home a defective car,” she says. “Remember, people selling cars only highlight their good points and rarely mention, if they ever do, their defects.”

Charlie, the Luxury Car specialist somewhat disagrees. “I think it’s okay to buy from a used car dealer where you are comfortable transacting and convenient for you. Buying from a dealer is establishing a relationship where the buyer is also dependent upon the service of the dealer and it is important that there is mutual trust.”

Lastly, Charlie emphasizes to importance of giving some down payment to reserve the car. “When you have the car’s service history and you had it checked by your mechanic and all that, then you need to make a down payment. As the dealer or seller is also continuously advertising the car regardless if the buyer is really interested, A down payment is a good first step in eventually “sealing the deal.”

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