Buyers' Guide: Buying on a budget
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You can almost guarantee that the lucky winner of this weekend’s Lotto is going to buy a new car or three. If money were no object, most people know exactly what sort of car they would get.
But, sadly, for the majority of us, money is an object and the type of car we would like to buy is different to the one we can afford.
Whether you are buying your first car, are strapped for cash or simply cannot justify the outlay for a new vehicle, here are a few tips to reduce the risk of buying a lemon.
Where to look?
Some auction houses have budget or end-of life vehicle auctions that can be a great way to source a pre-loved vehicle that might have been left as a trade-in. One of the disadvantages however, is that you’re most likely going to be talking to a salesman rather than the previous owner who knows the vehicle inside out.
In general, low-cost vehicles tend to be found online across classified listings and auction sites and are now even spreading across social media such as Facebook’s marketplace.
What to ask?
In most cases, these vehicles are sold privately rather than professionally. If you want to know the nitty gritty about a vehicle such as economy and horsepower, you’re better off doing your own research ahead of time.
Be inquisitive to gather an idea of the vehicle’s performance and ability. Key questions should be are how long they have owned the vehicle, service history, previous mechanical repairs and the like.
Aim for satisfactory
Keep in mind the vehicle isn’t fresh off the boat, so you’re more likely to find high mileage, dents, scratches and some interior stains. It’s important to therefore distinguish between cosmetic damage and more serious issues.
Mild bumps and bruises may be acceptable, but more serious issues such as rust and structural damage could haunt you an the next Warrant of Fitness.
Mechanically, it’s a little more difficult to determine how much lifethe vehicle has left. Basic checks you can do to reduce the risk of disappointment include inspecting when the cambelt was changed, looking over the service history and even old WoF papers if they are available.
Take the car for a test drive, cut the chit chat and listen for anything out of the ordinary.
Do any suspicious lights come on when you turn the ignition switch? Do any dash lights not come on that should? Does the car splutter as you fire up the engine?
If you hear knocking, clunking, clanking, tapping or squeaking noises as you drive, there could be something seriously wrong. Give the car a good run and, again, trust your instinct.
Of course, we always recommend getting a vehicle inspection by the professionals. We understand you may have limited funds and want to spend all your cash on the car or a few tanks of gas, but forking out for a vehicle inspection can save you thousands in the long run.
In New Zealand we’re blessed with an abundance of vehicles, so even on a tight budget you can be selective. You may not get the two-door drop-top you were wanting, but with a bit of patience and compromise, there are usually good vehicles out there.