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Top Tips for Buying a Second Hand Car

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Top Tips for Buying a Second Hand Car

Kimberlie Hutson
January 26, 2009

Kimberlie Hutson

I am a young, confident and intelligent woman, but when it comes to my car I regress to a 17 year old and view my father as my break down service, mechanic and general car encyclopedia. This attitude is common among many of my friends, male or female; like dogs can sense fear; my friends and myself are sure car dealers can sense 'auto naivety'.

Maybe I'm just being parodied (or cynical) but the car industry can be more than a little intimidating if you're not completely sure what's going on under your bonnet. If you're buying a second hand car here are just a few simple tips to help you out.

- Ask around; see if any friends or collogues can recommend anywhere. Reputation is critical in this industry, it will take a few seconds to run the dealerships name through an Internet search engine and you never know, you might find a posting on a forum or a review in a local publication.

- If you honestly don't know you're catalytic converter from your crankshaft you may want to take someone with you. Most of the breakdown services offer this service for a price. If you have a local mechanic you trust it may be worth asking if they could look over any potential cars. This may cost a bit but it will be worth it in the long run.

- When it comes to the car itself, you're going to have some sort of idea about what you want. Make a list of the most important things (i.e. specific make or model, low mileage, service history etc). Work out which is the most important, would you be willing to sacrifice the perfect colour for having a lower mileage? This should stop your heart ruling your bank balance.

- Always take it for a test drive, even if you know jack about cars (If they wont let you take it for a text drive, walk away). You'll know if it feels ok to drive. Check the biting point, if its very high it may mean the clutch is on the way out. Make sure you don't have to put your foot through the floor to break; it may have worked for Fred Flintstone but it wont do you any favors.

- Check the colour is constant, if it looks like it's been re-sprayed ask if there's an explanation, check under mats and inside the door. A re spray could be evidence of a crash or a stolen vehicle.

- Ask to see the V5; this is the vehicle registration document. You cannot tax a car without one. Check all the details on the V5 match the car, check the registration plate, colour, registered seller etc. all the registered keepers should be on the V5, if its changed hands several times over the last few years there may be a serious problem with the car.

- Don't be tempted to buy anything there and then. The sales assistant will tell you they've had several people interested in it, that its an amazing bargain. Always go away and think about it. Do a bit of research on that make and model of that year. Always use your common sense, most reputable dealership will offer a warranty; check that this covers parts and labour.

Once you've got your new car, you're going want to keep it in top shape. Remember to keep the oil topped up and change it as often as recommended by the manufacture. Race Lubricants have an extensive and competitive selection of engine oil's, and if there's anything you're unsure of, their technical help centre will be happy to answer any questions to make sure you get the right product for your engine.

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