Johnny or Jane is going to varsity or college and mum and dad are taking them shopping for their first car. Oh dear! So much to choose from. So many options, dealerships, confident salespeople. What to do? Unless mom or dad is really expert in used cars, it will be a challenge. Here are some tips on how to avoid the most obvious pitfalls.
Budget and stick to it
Decide how much you are prepared to spend and stick to it. Find the best value car in that price range. Once you do find a good car, consider what you will have to spend. Do you need new tyres? Wipers or a side mirror? Is anything broken, like a seatbelt clip or the cubbyhole latch? Is the car in a town a few hundred kilometres away? All these things cost money, so calculate whether your chosen car is still in the budget. But don’t compromise on safety. A set of tyres costs a lot less than the wellbeing of your child.
How do you know you are getting a good car?
At this stage you are looking at second-hand cars, so find out as much as you can about the car’s history. Start with the service book. Was the car serviced at all the correct intervals and do the service stamps look legit? If no to either of these questions, move on.
Has the car been modified? Aftermarket GT stripes, a dropped suspension, funny exhaust or a large wing on the boot are all indicators that you very well may avoid this specific car.
Has the car been in an accident? Is there a variation in paint colour between one or more doors and the rest of the car? Look inside the bonnet and boot at the inside structure. If the car had been in an accident, you may see irregular welding or deformed metal there. Open and close the doors, boot and bonnet. Any that do not close easily and properly is a danger sign. Ditto a gear that is difficult to shift into, or if the car is easier to turn one way than the other.
Think of who you are buying for and where it will be used
Think reliable and solid rather than pretty and flash. The colour of the car is far less important than how well it goes and keeps going. Students often park in the street outside their digs or in large parking areas at varsity. Expensive sound systems or bling mags are thief magnets. Check the alarm/immobiliser and if need be, buy the old-fashioned gorilla lock. Remind your child not to leave anything visible inside the car. Even an empty rucksack can lead to a broken window.
Pick your dealer
If you know a lot about cars, or the seller is a reliable friend, you should be fine. Otherwise think about who you will buy from.
If you can, rather go to a reputable dealer than the guy on the corner or online. Your good dealers cannot afford to sell dodgy cars, as they trade on reputation and depend on repeat business. They will only sell cars clean cars within a certain age and mileage bracket. They thoroughly check the body, engine and transmission for problems and either repair small defects or reject the car. They won’t touch a car that has been in a major accident. Cars like these obviously come with a premium price.
Still not sure?
Are you still uncertain? Perhaps you should consider a new car. Have a look at the super-affordable Datsun Go. For under R160 000* you will get a brand new car with serious safety features and all the mod cons, which comes with a peace-of-mind warranty of 6-years/150 000km. No need to check under the bonnet.
*Price accurate Jan 2020