Used Car Advice

Whether you’re buying, selling, researching, or just plain addicted to used cars as I am, this page is going to help you whatever the reason. The Car Advice page and the associated blog posts featured on this website will give you online car advice into what to look for in a car to suit your needs, personality, and budget, while offering suggestions on the best used cars to buy. On the flip side, if you are selling to upgrade or buy a car more suited to your current needs, this site will give you an idea of what to do, see what buyers are wanting and most importantly expect if you are selling.

Cruise Control

Essential Car Advice for Buying a Used Car

While the prospect sounds exciting, yet daunting, there are a few basic checks you can do yourself before getting a mechanic in.

Firstly, decide the purpose of the vehicle. It’s easy to get carried away dreaming of a 2-door sports car or of conquering the earth in a big, gas-guzzling 4 wheel drive, and buying it on the spot! Realistically however, you need to decide what it would be for: traveling to work, carrying boxes or people around, a first car for your teenage son/daughter, environmentally-friendly, or a classic. Manual or Automatic? More people are opting to get an ‘automatic’ license as it’s the easier option, and there are more vehicles out there to choose from. However, if you can drive and prefer a manual stick shift, then you’re in luck when it comes to the price. Manuals are generally cheaper (usually between one and two thousand dollars cheaper), and although you are more likely to pick up an older model, on the flip side there aren’t as many around on the used car market.

Next, set a maximum budget of what you want to spend. There are sites that offer a recommended price guide for models and years (such as Kelley Blue Book, Canadian Black Book, or Redbook in Australia). Note their prices are a guide only and it’s best to search for available stock on the internet to get a better idea. You will also need to factor in extra costs involved such as motor vehicle duty, transfer fee, insurance, and if you choose, a professional vehicle inspection and a vehicle history check (recommended). If buying at an auction, there is also a buyer’s fee. If you purchase through a Licensed Motor Dealer, they sometimes include the motor duty and transfer fee in the ‘Drive away, no more to pay’ advertised price. They also offer a reduced price online if you find one there. Remember, Dealers will often ask more for a vehicle than a private seller.

Fiat 500

Now comes the fun part, looking for the vehicle that suits your needs. It’s always a good idea to do an advanced search when scouring car websites for the best used cars to buy and to ensure basic requirements are met. Do your homework here and look at as many used vehicles on many different websites that fill your brief (or model and year) so you get an idea of the average price. Fill in the areas that apply to you like the price range, maximum mileage, transmission, body type, engine size etc.

Some Dealers who leave off the mileage of a vehicle are hiding the fact that the vehicle has done high mileage, so always ring or email first to confirm the actual distance the car has traveled. While you’re at it, check to see if the car has a branded title (some sites have this option and it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking correctly) as a car that seems really cheap for what it offers may have been written off. Whilst sites such as Cargurus, Autotrader, Bestcarfinder, Carsforsale, Cars, Smartmotorguide, Ebay, AutoTempest, and Drive help you refine your search, it’s a great idea to get out and check car yards and auctions (they change their available stock weekly, and you’re not pressured by a dealer).

This is great for someone who has no idea what they want, as you get to experience a vehicle first hand and decide what works and what doesn’t in a car for your needs. It’s important at this point to realize your spatial awareness when sitting in the driver’s seat, and if taking a test drive just how good you are at reverse parking, estimating your distance from other vehicles, and how easily you can see everything around you. When buying through an auction, note that you can’t test drive a vehicle and the price you pay doesn’t include on road costs. Go a day or two before the auction to avoid the rush of people registering to bid, and to give you time to look vehicles over at your leisure. Also ask if any service books and related paperwork come with the vehicle, as they are usually kept behind reception. You’re now ready to look over the vehicle.

This will help you further in your quest to find the best used car to buy. Take your time as this is your chance to assess the car for your safety and satisfaction. Check for mismatched paintwork or poorly fitting panels around the boot, door frames, and under the bonnet. This can indicate previous collision damage. See if you can spot rust or bubbled paint around windows, doors, and inside on the boot floor. Bring along a small torch and have a look under the vehicle for any visible damage or evidence of rust/holes in the muffler, and check for fluid leaks and fresh patches on the ground under the engine bay (this includes oil, coolant, or brake fluid). Time to lift the bonnet. Again, check for any leaks or oil surrounding the hoses or caps. Inspect the levels and color of the oil and water/coolant reservoirs. Check for signs of rust or damage to the radiator. Look over the tires for good tread and firmness including the spare. Make sure you are happy with your choice of either a full size tire or a compact spare which usually only gets you to where you are going.

You can check the age of your tires by looking at the Tire Identification Number (TIN). The last four digits on the tire indicate the week and year it was manufactured, e.g. a tire with ‘XXX3807’ was manufactured in the 38th week of 2007. Also make sure there is a car jack and tools for changing a tire. At this point ask if there is a wheel locking nut (should the tires require one). If not, they can be costly to replace. Check all exterior lights for cracks or damage.

Car Interior

Once inside the car, you can get an idea of how the car has been driven and treated. Cast an eye over the accelerator and brake pedals for wear, the seats for adjustments, smoke holes and stains, the sunshades, interior light, steering wheel adjustment, any loose screws or parts in the glove box, door, or center console, and the condition of carpet and ceiling lining. Check door handles, locks, wind-down windows, and side mirror adjustment. When you get the keys, ask if there are spares (as purchasing a spare set can set you back hundreds of dollars depending on what the key has stored such as immobilizer, central locking, alarm). Confirm original kilometers as advertised when purchasing a low mileage vehicle. I have often found adverts online that sound too good to be true – where the seller has listed their car with only 15,960 miles (25,700km’s), but in-fact mistakenly or deliberately left off a zero, with the true reading being 159,600 miles (257,000 km’s) on it. Frustrating and misleading sometimes by mistake, but sometimes also on purpose to get you interested. Upon starting the vehicle, listen for any strange noises (such as loud grunting, misfiring, heavy knocking or clattering). A squealing sound while taking off can mean the cam belt needs changing which can set you back over $1,000 on some European vehicles. If the vehicle has mileage between 50,000 miles (80,00kms) and 75,000 miles (120,000kms), check for receipts to show the belt has been changed, or allow for this in the asking price. When test-driving, do extreme right and left hand U-turns to ensure there’s no knocking sounds or abnormal pulling of the steering wheel. Test the brakes harshly. Make sure the gears handle smoothly and the vehicle accelerates well. Confirm all the electrics work (windows, side mirrors, stereo, sunroof, wipers, clock, and lights including dash board). Test the air-con and heating, and find out how many airbags (if any) there are.

Car Modifications
Car Keys

Ask if any modifications have been done (increased tire size, vehicle lowered, sunroof, spotlights, bull bar, sports kit, or engine alterations), as you will need to list these with your insurance company. Also take clear photos of any damage that maybe cheap enough to fix if the vehicle is great value. You can show a panel beater these photos and get a rough quote of how much any repairs would cost.  If you have a list of faults that need repairing or you notice registration is nearing expiry, use these as leverage to reduce the asking price. With private sales especially, I recommend a vehicle inspection check either by a local, certified mechanic or a specialist company that specializes in just doing vehicle inspections. This provides you with an in depth report of how the vehicle handles, and an overall look at the engine and performance. Ask the mechanic for for his automotive advice on the vehicle. Also get a vehicle history report to check the written off status and if the car is or has been stolen. If you are buying from an interstate or overseas seller/dealer, it is essential to do professional mechanical and vehicle history checks, and find out how much transport will cost you (which could also be factored into the price you want to pay). If you are buying from a Dealer, ensure you get a separate mechanic to do the check as some (and I say some!) Dealers can do a dodgy check with their own mechanic to get the sale. Finally, before picking up your ‘new’ used car, ensure you have insurance in place before getting behind the wheel. Make sure you do an online comparison to get the best deal, and double check exactly what you are covered for. This advice for buying a used car in the USA and beyond will give you the confidence to get out there. If you are satisfied at this point, good luck and good motoring!  Check out more in-depth advice here.

Stick Shift

Automotive Advice for Selling Your Used Vehicle

Trying to sell your used car privately? Follow these 7 Essential Tips to make it as attractive to potential buyers as possible.

Clean the car. It seems obvious, but I’ve seen pictures of filthy cars with rubbish scattered about inside the main cabin and boot. This comes across as if the vehicle has been mistreated, not cleaned for months, years or even ever, and that the seller is lazy and isn’t really keen to sell. If you haven’t got the time or inclination yourself, take it to a car detailer (but keep in mind it will cost you money before you’ve even taken photos, let alone listed it for sale). Getting the Vehicle Roadworthy. Unless you are selling your vehicle ‘as is’, you will need to get the car checked over and repair any problems before listing it for sale, or state in your listing that these problems will be done upon purchase. Paperwork. Prepare ahead of time with all the paperwork needed for the big sale. Depending where you live, this will include the ‘Title’ deed that shows you own the car outright, ‘Bill of Sale’ or ‘Vehicle Transfer’ forms (available from your local state department of motor vehicles), ‘Log Books’ and ‘Receipts’ that show when services were done as well as any other work (or newly acquired tires, batteries, or the like), and any ‘Warranty’ documents if the car is still under warranty. You can already start filling in your name, address, and vehicle details where needed to reduce time when it comes to filling in the buyers information, price and date.

Car Wash
Mitsubishi Solara

Photos. Then research and look at great photos other people have taken for their online advert. Notice what angles and features are being highlighted, including the speedo. Then apply the same method to your vehicle. Make sure all photos are focused and clear, and are facing the right way round (not sideways or upside down). Minimize distractions and choose a quiet place to take photos with a plain backdrop like a wall, or against the ocean or grass in the background to highlight the car. Show off any aftermarket features or modifications such as: A Sunroof – show the sunroof up or open as well as shut; Alloy Wheels with larger tires; Rally Seats; A Rear Spoiler; An Updated Stereo; Roof Racks; Tow Bar; Body Kit; Headlight Covers and/or Bonnet Protectors. Note: Take all seat covers off and remove any unsightly stickers before taking photographs so people know what they are getting. By not taking and including any photos, you reduce the amount of potential buyers by up to 95%. It’s also a category potential buyers can click to see vehicles with photos only, so yours wouldn’t even be seen. Research. To ascertain the value of your car, type in your car’s details to at least 3 different used car sites to find out what it could be worth when matched against the same vehicle. Make sure you enter mileage grouping (for example cars under 100,000 km’s or cars under 80,000 miles), the year, make and model. Start with looking in your area, then widen the search to other areas around the country (especially if the vehicle is a rare model). Categories. Make sure you focus and select the correct categories and state the correct mileage. The amount of times I’ve seen adverts with the wrong body shape or mileage (usually one less zero to make it sound appealing, but just annoying) makes me wonder if the person is serious about selling.

Car Features
Car Wheel

Description. This is a crucial step. Always include a detailed description and keep it positive. Don’t patronize potential buyers or you will limit your market. Phrases like ‘ídeal for students’, ‘looking for your first car?’, ‘features first car buyers will love’, or ‘female driver only’. These suggest that people who have had cars before are not ideal, that working people are not going to enjoy a car as much as students, and that female drivers are the only drivers who know how to drive a car. None of these are relevant to the car itself. Make sure to check grammar and spelling to avoid mixed messages or misunderstanding.

Don’t put in initialed jargon you can only find in the urban dictionary. The average purchaser has no idea what it means. Read your description to make sure it sounds alright. People want to know why you’re selling. Are you upgrading to a newer vehicle or a larger car? Do you need a family car now instead of the 2 door sports car you’re selling? Moving overseas perhaps? Was the car bought as a project to do up, but you no longer have the time? These are all good reasons to use, but don’t put ‘I need the money’ or ‘need gone ASAP’, as this will get lots of low-ball offers.

Highlight the attributes: Garaged or undercover when at home or at work; You have a detailed Service History; Any new or near new tires, new battery or windscreen wipers, cam belt changed, air-con re-gassed, or any work done to the engine etc; How many airbags it has if it has a recommended safety rating. Check your vehicle out to see before putting this down; 2 or more sets of keys. I’ve seen a lot of cars with only one set, so promoting there are more is an advantage; Is the car economical on fuel? This is a great feature for the budget conscious buyer; Special features such as heated seats; Is the car one owner from new? List how many owners the car has had if only a few; Any new car warranty time left if the vehicle is less than the warranty period; If you have a ute, pickup or van for sale, put down the size of the usable space or list the largest item you have fitted in.

Do this for the boot of your car or SUV as well to give buyers an estimate of what they can fit. Also be honest about any problems so buyers know ahead of looking at it. It also lets them know that you have factored into the price these problems. It makes you appear an honest person to deal with. If the vehicle has been written off, list the reason why. I know of vehicles that have been written off for hail damage (not from an accident), not affecting the engine, stability, safety or interior at all. It just means the car has needed some body work to get the small dents out. So explaining the reason can actually be an advantage to get interest. Avoid negative phrases like ‘Fixed price. Serious buyer. No negotiations. No time wasters’, and leave out all SMS and urban dictionary slang. Not everyone knows what ‘1NAM’ means and they are even less likely to look it up.

By not putting a description at all, again shows a lack of wanting to sell your car and I would just scroll right past it as a potential buyer.

Car Trunk Space
Car Sale Handshake

If you want to go the extra mile, print out a few A4 color flyers to stick on noticeboards at local supermarkets, libraries, and universities. Once you’ve successfully handed over the keys and all the paperwork is in order, don’t forget to take the car off your insurance policy and have a celebratory drink. Seller beware: There are scammers out there saying they will pay the full asking price or even offer an extra incentive to get you to give bank details online first. They are usually ‘out of state’ so they can’t come to see the car. Don’t fall for it, plenty of my friends and even myself have had scammers message and follow a similar pattern. Make sure you are speaking with an authentic person, and don’t give out your banking details online. Follow this sound car advice on tried and tested, but effective methods, and you should be on your way to selling your car quicker than the opposition. Check out more in-depth advice here.