AA Motoring Car Buyer's Guide: Look beyond age and mileage
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What’s more important when buying a used car — miles or age?
If you’re in the market for a new second-hand car, you may just find yourself in the unenviable position of having to choose between, say a 3-year-old car with 100,000km on the clock or a 7-year-old vehicle that’s covered 30,000km.
Ideally, you want to find a good balance between the age and the mileage of the vehicle so, in situations like this, it’s definitely worth looking into other factors, such as a vehicle’s servicing and ownership history, before you hand over your cash.
Though a car with higher mileage is likely to have accumulated its fair share of wear and tear, there’s also a good chance it has been well looked after by its owner. So, if you come across a car with a reasonably high mileage during your search, don’t discount it immediately.
Also, bear in mind that low mileage isn’t always a good thing, especially if a vehicle has been parked up over long periods of time without use. Not using your vehicle on a regular basis can actually cause damage — for example, if the brake calipers or wheel cylinders aren’t being used frequently they can seize. Lack of use can also affect rubber and plastic components — things like hoses, tyres and dashboards — making them dry and brittle.
This means a 7-year-old car that has only travelled about 30,000km may not be as good as you think. Do your homework and find out a little more about the owner’s previous usage of the vehicle. Was it a casual driver who rarely took their car out of the local township but used it frequently for their weekly shop and must-dos? If so, you may be on to a winner. Or is it the car of one of the kids, who has been at uni for the past four years, and has only used it a handful of times on summer breaks?
Age is also a particularly important aspect to consider during your car search. Many of us live in environments that are a stone’s throw from the sea and, over time, the salty air combined with strong coastal winds can wreak havoc on the body of a vehicle — especially if its owner doesn’t have a garage. If you’re looking at a slightly older car, then keep your eyes peeled for obvious signs of corrosion, particularly around the areas that are trickier to see, such as hinge and latch panels, and roof gutters.
Have you ever come across ex-fleet or lease cars during your search? Although these may have more kms on the clock, they are generally newer, with a good service history. Many come with manual transmission, something that’s becoming harder and harder to find in the New Zealand used-car market, and they often have safety features not available with older used cars — and that’ll mean you can benefit from lower registration charges.
The age and mileage of a car is important but it goes without saying that they aren’t the only factors that should be considered during the decision-making process for buying a used car. The only way to really understand what you’re getting in to is by doing the groundwork.
Look beyond the facts and figures the seller provides in the advertisement and really try to achieve an in-depth understanding of what you’re buying.
Always investigate the car’s service history and take it out for an extended road test. Although a 7-year-old car with only 30,000km on the clock may instantly grab your attention, further research could reveal that the vehicle has no service history and has spent most of its life semi-submerged, launching boats. The only way to unveil these catalysts for potential problems is to do your background research, and invest in the appropriate checks such as a pre-purchase inspection before you decide to buy.
We know that the age and mileage of a car matters, but it’s the maintenance and upkeep of a car provided by its owner that’s really important.