If you’re someone with an interest in cars, you’ve probably been tempted by a used car deal before. And why not, when the budget you have for a new car can net you something nicer, something more desirable, something higher up the car food chain. Why Perodua when can BMW?
True, but there are plenty of caveats, as you can’t have your cake and eat it. That used car, which you looked at in lust all those years ago, may still look mighty fine (if not better), but it might be hiding some issues. That’s only to be expected with age.
But you know that, of course, and you’re going in with eyes wide open. After all, life is short and we should live a little right? Right. Here’s our moral support, along with a few tips on what to look out for when buying a used car.
If you’re an old hand in buying and selling cars, you’d know what to expect. But for those who usually buy new cars, expectations need to be set right.
No matter how clean or well-maintained a used car is, you should not be expecting a new car experience, and by that we mean buy and drive with zero maintenance needed other than scheduled servicing. It’s usual practice for used car dealers to “touch up” a car to make it look nice and fresh, aesthetically.
A good compromise would be to buy a used car that still has an active factory warranty. That would balance savings and peace of mind. With the warranty still active, the car would be relatively young as well, which means less potential problems.
Some carmakers have official certified pre-owned programmes with some sort of warranty. There are also some car dealers who include third-party warranties with their cars, but the scope of coverage varies. Vendors like myTukar go even further – all cars come with a one-year extended warranty plus one year of free service. Have doubts or outright changed your mind? You can even return the car thanks to the myTukar’s five-day money-back guarantee – no questions asked.
This seems obvious. It’s either you can afford the car or not, right? It’s not so straightforward though, and many fail to consider other costs beyond the used car’s sticker price.
Maintenance costs are generally higher for used cars as there are more wear and tear parts to replace, on top of regular maintenance. Do your research and set aside funds, on top of your monthly instalments. Also, remember to research on the cost of parts/servicing and have the right expectations – for instance, if you’re jumping from a national car to a used Continental car, expect bigger bills.
When faced with an exotic temptation, ask yourself if you can afford to maintain a new Porsche or Bentley? If the answer is no, you most likely can’t afford the upkeep of a used one, even if it’s now priced below RM100k.
Another kind of temptation is a car that’s priced “below market value”. It might be worth it to shell out extra for a car that’s been well-cared for, with full maintenance history. The buy cheap and do it up route might add up to more in the long run, and that’s not counting the time and effort required.
Also consider road tax – which unlike the car’s value, will never go down – and the higher loan interest rate used cars attract, compared to new cars.
So you’ve done the calculations and have decided on a used car. As with all pre-owned items, price varies according to condition, generally. We start the inspection process with the exterior.
Take into account the car’s age. Scratches and dents around the body are only to be expected for daily drivers. Note the paint blemishes and take into account the costs to fix them (total body respray, touch-up, paintless dent repair), or if you can live with the battle scars.
Bear in mind that not all used cars have blemishes, as some have already been given a fresh coat of paint or touched up to cover chips and scratches. Check paint surfaces for evenness in the sheen and finish – parts that appear more shiny and “new” than the rest of the body might hide damage repairs.
Compare a car’s colour to what’s listed on the registration card. While you’re at it, check panel gaps for consistency – uneven gaps might be from a minor fender bender or even shoddy body repair work from a bigger accident. Also check out the headlamps and tail lights – both sides should display the same amount of wear; otherwise, one corner might have been replaced before. Of course, all lights should be working. Small chips on the windscreen are not uncommon, but you don’t want cracks.
The use of branded tyres is usually a sign of proper care by the previous owner. Conversely, cheap tyres on expensive cars are hint at a cost-cutting approach. In any case, it would be good to change to a fresh set of tyres if a car has been in storage for some time, as the tyres might have hardened or flat-spotted while sitting idle. Check the wheels for kerb damage, and if they’re OEM or aftermarket, if you mind.
As for bodykits, factory-fitted ones are fine, but if it’s retrofitted, make sure to check the points where the kit is attached to the body – ideally, you don’t want rivets or screws leaving permanent holes in the car’s body. Bodykits and replacement bumpers can be original or a copy, and can come in different materials – take note of this.
Generally, look for cars that are in stock/original condition – the less modifications the better, unless you’re specifically looking for a look/mod and the previous owner shares the same taste.
It’s harder to touch up a car’s interior than the exterior, and the cabin tells a good story of the car’s condition. Of course, signs of wear are to be expected, but if things are too worn out and need replacement, that’s extra cost.
For fabric seats, ensure there are no tears. Extra wear on the outer seat bolsters are normal. Leather seats can harden, become shiny and crack over time – while this can’t be fixed, reupholstering the seats is an option, at a cost of course. The same goes for leather-wrapped steering wheels. Also look out for cigarette burn marks. Cigarette smoke smell embedded over many years can be hard to get rid off.
Seats and steering wheel aside, there are other frequently-touched points in the cabin. Wear on door handles, grab handles, air con and audio controls are normal, but watch out for broken parts. Some cabin parts and switches might be small, but replacement parts may not be cheap and a’la carte.
All electronics and functions have to be working. Check the wipers, power windows, central locking, reverse camera, sound system and displays (infotainment screen, instrument panel, multi-info display). Try adjusting the electric seats, side mirrors and steering rake/reach. Seatbelts too; they must retract and not sag.
For cars with an electronic sunroof, try it out to make sure the operation is smooth. This step even more important for convertibles with an electronic folding roof – there’s an extra army of panels, actuators, struts and seals compared to a hardtop coupe, which unfortunately also means more potential problems.
Finally, look under the floor and boot carpets. Damp spots, any sign of stagnant water, or rust on the bolts and seat mounts could be a sign of leaks or even flood damage. Anyway, if you’re buying from a dealer, most of the above – especially obvious points such as the steering wheel and seats – would have been refurbished before it hits the lot.
The test drive
The test drive is the main event. Fire up the engine and listen to it idling – it should be constant and without a choking sound/feel. Turn on the air con to ensure that the air is cool and flowing out from every vent.
When you set off, remember to take it easy – there’s no need for a pedal-to-metal approach, especially in an unfamiliar car that does not belong to you yet. Take your time to get familiar with the controls and the view around the car. Taking it easy initially will also tell you much about the car’s behaviour in traffic and at low speeds.
Areas to concentrate on are the engine (see if it revs smoothly, no excess vibrations), the transmission (smooth shifts, no jerking, not too much freeplay for manuals), steering (no excess vibrations, doesn’t pull to one side) and suspension (no creaks/squeaks, feels ‘solid’).
On less than smooth roads, interior rattles and squeaks might surface. While this is not desirable, it’s not unsurprising for used cars to have some cabin noise. In fact, some new cars are delivered with rattles!
After the drive, open the hood and check the engine bay for any signs of oil or fluid leaks. Very few engine bays are dust- and dirt-free, but probe if you see oil stains. While you’re at it, check the engine dipstick, start the car again and listen to the engine at the source. Observe the idle and look out for unusual noise and squeaks/rattles. Give the motor a rev and see it return to a smooth idle.
For our full buying guide for second-hand and recon cars in Malaysia, click here.
myTukar AutoFair 2022 – used cars with peace of mind
The checklist might sound overwhelming when put in words, but it’s not that daunting in real life and you’d already be checking many of the points naturally.
Many of the potential used car pitfalls can be mitigated by a warranty. Every myTukar purchase not only includes a one-year extended warranty, but also one year of free service. It will be as worry-free as used car buys go. There’s even a five-day money-back guarantee – no questions asked – if you somehow change your mind, of if the other half doesn’t approve!
The myTukar AutoFair 2022 will be held from January 7 to 9, 2022 at the myTukar Retail Experience Centre – Puchong South. Set to be Malaysia’s largest used car event with over 1,000 pre-owned vehicles available, you’ll find a wide selection of popular cars such as the Perodua Axia and Myvi, Proton Saga and Persona, various Honda and Toyota models, and even premium options from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.
Aside from the usual myTukar benefits, purchase a car at myTukar AutoFair 2022 and you will also receive an additional year of free service (two in total), loan interest rates as low as 1.68%, same-day loan approval and car collection, and Trapo car mats for all models. Have an existing car to trade-in? myTukar will provide you with an on-the-spot trade-in offer.
There’s more. Buyers will also be entered into the MyTukar Lucky Spin Promo to win one of six prizes, including a ninth-generation iPad. You’ll also be in the running to drive home in a Proton X70 Premium with myTukar’s 4th Anniversary Giveaway contest. Visitors can enjoy refreshments and visit partner brand booths, among other attractions.
By the way, there will be strict Covid-19 prevention procedures enforced, including contactless payment and mandatory masks, full vaccination and social distancing. More information can be found at the official myTukar website, and you can also browse the inventory here to find what you’re looking for.
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