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Things to Look For When Buying a Second Hand Car :::

[Part 2]

» Mileage

Look at the mileage, and check that this ties in with the most recent MOT. Unless the vendor can conclusively prove the mileage (with FSH or all MOT certs) then assume that it cannot be relied upon and rate the car on the condition as seen. Low mileage is utterly irrelevant if it cannot be proven. When driving the car check that the odometer actually goes round and has not been disconnected and look for signs of tampering like fingerprints on the dial indicating the car's been 'clocked'.

Look at the pedal rubbers, steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake. If these are as smooth as a baby's bum then assume the car has done a great many miles. Also look at the condition of the drivers seat bolsters. These shouldn't wear until about 100K and so if they're badly worn or torn then assume a mega-mileage. Also if the passenger seat is in worse condition than the driver's seat then the driver's seat is a replacement so bear this in mind. Look at the leading edge of the bonnet and wings, as these should be covered in stone chips. If there are hundreds of them then it is a high mileage car and if there are non then the front end has been resprayed...Why? It may be that the owner had the front end painted to eliminate chips and neaten the car up, however make sure the explanation ties in to the way he/she has treated the rest of the car!

If you are happy with the car's authenticity then you can start looking at its finer details….

» Bodywork

Look for rust around the bottom of the doors, around the lips of all the wheel-arches [but especially the rears], and behind any trim. Be wary of dodgy bodykits because as well as [in almost every case!] looking awful and lowering the re-sale value of the car, these can often hide a multitude of sins. Look for parking dings on the doors and chips on the glass. You will probably find most of the above on older cars but they are key in evaluating the value of the car and appreciating what you are taking on before you part with hard cash.

Oxidised paint and faded trim can often be brought to life with a bit of TLC (the trim can be replaced cheaply) but play on this and use it to beat the price down. Be aware that metallic colours are far harder and more expensive to touch up and repair than flat colours. If the car is fitted with alloys then look for corrosion and curbing, again with a view to knocking the price down. Refurbishing wheels is expensive (£35 a corner and upwards depending on size) especially if they are split rims so do not think that you will "just spend a couple of quid" tidying them up. Check that the spare wheel, jack and brace are in the boot and in good condition, and if not then beat the price down as these are standard equipment.

» Consumables

Look at the tyres and brakes check how much life they have left. Check to see if the tyres are a full set or 2 pairs. If you plan to uprate the handling then you will want the tyres to at least be fitted in pairs. It can prove expensive if you get the car home only to find that if needs £200 worth of tyres before you can drive it through a puddle without killing yourself. Look at the wear patterns across the width of each tyre, as the wear should be 'even'. Excessive wear on either side of the tyre implies that the tracking or camber is out. Wear on both outside edges implies that the tyres have been under-inflated, and wear across the centre of the tyre indicates over-inflation. Check to see when the car was last serviced. Most older cars will not have FSH but you want to see a good few receipts to back up any maintenance claims. A FVWSH seems to be worth loads, but do NOT be fooled. Maintenance is maintenance and often fastidious owners will look after their cars far more carefully than any garage, just make they can prove it.

One of the most crucial servicing aspects is the frequency of oil changes, as neglect in this area will often leave the engine with irreparable damage. Check the light lenses for cracks as these result in MOT failures, as often can a cracked number plate (again both bargaining points). Find out when the cam-belt was last changed, for VAG engines the service interval is 40,000 miles. If there is no proof that this has been done in the last 40k then budget for a new one to be on the safe side. This will be £3.50 if you do it yourself or just over £100 if you take it to a garage due to the labour requirement. These sort of impending liabilities need to be taken into account when valuing the car especially if you are not a DIY fan and will be paying a garage to fix any problems.




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