Buying a used car has its risks and benefits. Among the latter, the most important is undoubtedly the price: a vehicle that is four years old is around 30% cheaper than one of the same model but new. A difference that widens, of course, the longer the vehicle has.
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In 2019, 1,258,260 were sold in Spain new cars and SUVs, while in the second-hand market the operations were almost a million more: 2,236,406. This is almost double and in any case a million more units, which gives an idea of the power of this market.
The main risks of buying a second-hand car are also evident: ignorance about the treatment received by its previous owners and the problems you may have had since it left the factory until today. Some problems that, of course, tend to be more numerous the more years of use the vehicle has.
On average, second-hand cars sold in our country have more than twelve years old, well above the 10.4 years of the European average. Specifically, 57% of these vehicles are sold more than a decade later of its launch.
They are good reasons to be very careful the moment you decide to go for a used car. With information from the Royal Automobile Club of Spain (RACE) and other specialized portals, a series of tips are listed below that should be taken into account when deciding the buying a car secondhand.
1. Know what to look for
It may seem obvious but, since the universe of cars is very wide, the first thing to do is to narrow your search according to needs and tastes. In relation to the needs, it must be assessed whether the car will be used by a single person or by a family with children, if it is to be used by road, in rural areas or in the city, if saving on fuel is a priority, etc. .
In terms of tastes, the different models, designs and even brands can tip the decision one way or the other. And also, of course, the budget available. Based on all these variables, the RACE advises choosing “two or three models to search and compare offers” on the internet or on specialized sites.
2. Diligently question the seller
The Royal Automobile Club explains that “the call to the seller is key to ensure a good purchase, because it usually gives you many clues about the history and condition of the vehicle.” That is, that first contact should be used to ask a few essential questions: the answers can lead to decline the purchase already at that moment, and in that way save time, energy and money.
What to ask the seller in that initial communication? Some most important questions are the following: what is the reason for the sale, if it was the first owner or there were previous ones, if the car “sleeps” in the garage or outdoors, if you live on the coast or in the interior, and if you have all of them the papers in order and has a maintenance book up to date.
3. Check that the data is correct
The RACE recommends asking the seller for a copy of the vehicle documentation, from the road tax and the aforementioned maintenance book to the technical sheet to detect possible modifications and the latest technical inspection, if the car is more than four years old.
Another recommended option is to request an extended report from the General direction of traffic (DGT). In this way, after paying a fee of 8.50 euros, you get all the official administrative information: identification of the owner, municipality where the vehicle is domiciled, record of technical inspection of vehicles (ITV), number of previous owners, mileage, charges, liens, fines, etc.
4. Check the exterior of the car
Once all the previous stages have been overcome, it is time to go see the car in person. It is essential to know the state of the vehicle, so it is best not to worry about looking too exhaustive in review.
What to watch Pay attention to the existence of visible damage, such as bumps, scratches or dents, but also to more subtle issues, such as imperfections in the paint, the presence of rust or irregular wear on the tires.
It is also important to detect if the headlights, window glass or any other part is different from its peers and therefore not original. The existence of substitutions can reveal previous problems that the seller had not discussed until then. These details may not be so decisive as to decline the purchase, but they are to negotiate a reduction in the initial price.
5. Examine the interior of the vehicle and under the hood
In addition to very obvious problems (such as stains, tears or burns in the upholstery), the interior of the car can show very noticeable wear on parts such as the steering wheel, seats, gear or light lever, pedals, carpet, seat belts or parasols.
These data – especially if they seem incongruous with a low mileage of the vehicle – can be an indication of careless treatment and also of possible mechanical failures. This is also the time to check the operation of the lights, dash controls, air conditioning, windshield wipers, stereo, and speakers.
The car interior hygiene – or the lack of it – can also provide signals about the treatment you’ve received. And when it comes to what’s under the hood, it’s best to take the car to a workshop to be checked by a specialist with the appropriate instruments. If this is not possible, at least check the oil, coolant and brake fluid level, the condition of the air and oil filters and that of the timing belt.
6. Test the car
The car test is also a critical part of the evaluation. Some recommend asking the seller to be the one who drives the vehicle first, as seeing it can give an idea of how you have treated it.
Then, the potential buyer – already at the wheel – should try to take the car through different paths, if possible even by road or highway, to check the condition of the engine, gears, brakes, etc.
It is important pay attention to detect if, at high speeds, vibrations or unusual noises are produced (for this, the radio must be switched off and the windows closed).
And at low speed it is recommended to make 90 degree turns and look for the top of the steering, and also test reverse gear, to check that the car behaves correctly. The more thorough and detailed the evaluation, the more elements there will be to negotiate in search of a fair price and greater tranquility it will be taken at the time of closing the transaction.
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