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Used Car Buying Tips

Knowing where and how to buy a used car can alleviate most of the tension that a consumer faces when planning a used car purchase. Madrasi.Info has hundreds of informative pages for the Car lovers. Pick up useful tips on used car buying.
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Buying a used car is perhaps more complicated and trickier than buying a new one. Knowing where and how to buy a used car can alleviate most of the tension that a consumer faces when planning a used car purchase. Pick up useful tips on used car buying. There was a time when people had to rely on car mechanics and the local garage owners to pick their used cars. With more car manufacturers and dozens of models of cars on the Indian roads now, there is a growing trend towards more organized second hand car market. Some car manufacturers like Maruti taking the lead in factory refurbished pre-owned cars under the name of TrueValue and others joining in, more Indians - especially the first time buyers are turning towards used cars.

According to the India's Automotive Mission Plan - the volume of Passenger car market which was about 1 million ( 10 lakhs) in the year 2003 -2004 is poised to increase to 30 lakhs (3 million) by the year 2015. "India is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world," in the words of Mr.Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of alliance partners Renault and Nissan. Many Indians opt for used cars when it comes to buying expensive fully loaded Multi utility vehicles and SUV.

Choosing a used car

Before embarking on the search of a used car, it is essential to decide the budget for the purchase including the cost of insurance, operation, maintenance and repair costs. This factor depends on how you will use the vehicle and how long you plan to keep the car. Some cars tend to retain the resale value much longer than others. For example, Maruti 800 MPFI model cars tend to maintain their value longer than Opel Corsa cars. The more expensive the spares are, the more expensive the base car costs, the less is the possibility of the car retaining its value. After sales service and the availability of the spares are factors which play a major role in deciding the eventual resale value of a car. The famed French Peugeot 309, despite its better build quality suffered poor resale value due to the scarcity of service network. PAL bred Fiat cars fared notoriously poor in the second hand car market for poor build quality.

  • What car should one decide depends much on future needs and lifestyle pattern of the user.
  • The next decision needs to be taken on how old the used car should be. While on this issue another question that needs to be addressed is whether to go in for a smaller car that is newer or a larger car that is older. This again depends on how much you can afford on running costs like fuel, maintenance, tires and spares. The best bet would be to buy a car that is almost new, may be two years or younger, if you plan to keep the cost of ownership low.
  • The next prime buy should be a car that is three to five year old, which has run 14 to 18 thousand kilometers a year. One should be wary of the fact that odometer readings can be rolled back and tampered.

Locating a Used Car:

  • It is always better to buy a used car with a known history. It could be from a relative, friend or neighbour. This way one can be rest assured about the history of the car.
  • A used car can also be bought from other buying locations. From car dealers, second hand car show rooms, news paper advertisements, and other classifieds that lead the buyer to individual owners.
  • Buying from a dealer is a better option than from a 'second hand car dealer'. The car from dealers are usually systematically inspected and they offer service and maintenance warranty.

Valuation for the car

It is pertinent to get realistic valuation for the used car. There are car valuators for this purpose. It is recommended to thoroughly check the car with sufficient time before planning the buy.

  • An untouched car engine is the best bet. In case this is not possible, buy a car with a single reboring which should lower the car value by about Rs.10,000/ - Rs.20,000/-.
  • If the car does not possess radial car tyres with enough tread depth (stick a 25 Pisa coin in the groove and it should go almost half), then the price should go down by Rs.2500/- per bald tyre.
  • The car's bodyline will reveal if the car has been in an accident or not. It is important to check the under carriage of the car, the bonnet and look at the paintwork with care.
  • The price of the car can be decreased by about Rs.2500/- if the battery in the car is not new. The buyer should also check if the battery is a reconditioned one.

Some Points about Used Cars

Keep Your Eyes Peeled If a car is well maintained (look for service record and take a look at the Engine Oil dipstick) and is free from any signs of accident damage (look around the body panel for signs of fresh paint) and has a clear record (look for Original RC book) - then it is a matter of negotiating the price - Congratulations !

Smoking Gun Start the Engine - Don't rev her up. Just keep the engine ticking over for a 5 minutes. Then blip the throttle pedal and look out for smoke. Smoking owners are fine - but you don't want to be saddled with a smoking car. White smoke when the engine is raced indicates that engine oil gets past the worn pistons - expensive engine rebuild may be required. If the car has a diesel engine, a bit of black smoke depending on its age is ok as long as other signs indicate a good engine.

Roll 'er Time to check the suspension. You need to be strong muscled for this test in a tough car. Push the front bonnet as far as it will go in one motion. It should bounce back with no creaking sound (that you hear in the movie Grudge). It should not do a namaste. If it does, offer a namaste to the car owner and make a quick exit.

Inspect the Inside Take a good look inside the Engine compartment. Does it look nice and shiny ? May be the car has had a clean wash to hide something. Do you get a bad feeling about this ? Walk away ! Dull engine bulkheads are ok. Shiny newly painted interior spells trouble as the car may have had a frontal collision.

Look for Rust on the Exterior Open the doors and look for rust in the running board. Tinkering work is expensive. Look around the car for dents, discoloration, scratches and gashes on the body panels. Some cars require prohibitively expensive spare panels and bumpers. The front bumper of a Tata Safari costs Rs.9000 and above.

Test drive

The car should be taken for a test drive. This is an essential part of the process. Car should be test driven on different types of roads under many conditions. Test drive the car on hills, highways and in stop-and-go traffic congestion. One should be careful about engine, unusual noises and vibrations, shaky steering and front-end trouble. Brakes should be tested for signs of pulling. The clutch has to be tested through various gears.

Check out the outside

Look out for any signs of accident or dents or new paint or chrome. The body of the car needs to be checked for rust or fill. Under the car has to be checked for cracks in the frame, rusting or welding. Examine the condition of the muffler, tailpipe and exhaust system. Any signs of fluids, leaking of oil and brake or transmission fluid need to be checked. Check for shock absorbers and bounces in the car. It is better to open the trunk and check for a jack and the condition of the spare tyre as well. Rust under the mats and signs of uneven wear in the tires need to be closely watched.

Check out the inside

The hood of the car needs to be lifted and condition of the belts and hoses needs to be verified. Check the battery for any crack and oil level needs to be ascertained. Lights, horns, mirrors, seat belts, radio, heater and windows should be checked. Door check for easy operation and handles and locks is a must. Dimmer switch, headlights and windshield washers have to be checked. So too the odometer to see if there is any signs of it being tampered.

Check the liens

Protect your interests by ensuring that there are no outstanding liens against the car to be purchased.

Verify serial number

The buyer should verify the serial number of the car with the one on the vehicle registration card and make sure that it corresponds. Make sure that the seller is a genuine one and is not trying to sell a stolen or a leased vehicle.

Transfer of ownership

It is essential to ask the seller for registration papers. These are the documents that are required to transfer the vehicle ownership. This way the purchaser can also confirm the real ownership of the vehicle to be sold. The status of the car registration papers has to be checked. According to rules, a car should be driven according to the state rules and one is not permitted to use a car that belongs to another state. In case the state of registration is different from the state one plans to use the car, then the buyer has to ensure that the seller transfers the registration.

RTO Tax receipt:

The original owner of the car should have paid the lifetime RTO tax. If the owner has not paid it, then it may add up to several thousands that ultimately the buyer may have to bear.

Road Tax

This is a recurring amount and although this amount is small several owners ignore or forget to pay regularly. A buyer has to assure that the seller hands over these papers or clears all payments before the car is actually sold.


This is one of the most important documents for any car. The buyer has to insist on the insurance papers, as these are mandatory for any transfer by the RTO. While the premium for insurance is paid on a regular basis, it is advisable to check the due date. The buyer also has to ensure that the insurance papers are transferred in his/her name.

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Used Car Buying Tips