The pandemic has most certainly changed how we do business in general.

In the vehicle market, and with current lack of stock availability, the trend is for owners to extend ownership of their cars rather than buying a new one.

Alternatively, if they do buy, the preference seem to be towards good quality preowned vehicles.

Now, buying preowned (privately or from a dealer) does present some risks because it is not always possible to judge the real mechanical condition of any vehicle.

The risk can however be limited, if not at all eliminated by having the vehicle inspected by a trusted independent service provider.
Buy Safe Sell Safe (if you buy through Gumtree) can assist with a DEKRA test and inspection.

The Automobile Association (AA) can also assist with a bumper to bumper inspection report on the vehicle.

The alternative would be for you to insist that the seller provide a DEKRA roadworthy certificate. Should he or she not be willing to assist with this, walking away from the opportunity would probably be wise.

And just for good measure, roadworthy certificates can be “bought” these days, so be careful even of provided certificates.

It would also be good to use the vehicles VIN number to check via NaTIS if the seller is the legitimate owner and also to be sure that the vehicle does not show up as stolen.

Next research the trade-in and retail value of the car. Again TransUnion can help with the latter. This information is important in that it will enable you to negotiate a fair price. Remember though that in tough trading conditions like the current, the demand for a particular vehicle or brand, often dictate higher prices even than what Trans Union may indicate.

The test drive

1. Before you go for a drive, you should walk around the car and do a thorough visual inspection checking all body damage and scratches – door panels, bonnet, fenders and boot lid alignment – bumpers and paint differences. The latter may be the result of accident repairs.
2. Do an inspection of the underside of the car – check for oil leaks – wear and tear and possible structural damage. Investigate anything that does not seem right.
3. Do a thorough inspection of the boot and the engine bay. A dirty engine and e.g. dirty battery terminals, may be a tell tale sign of a careless owner.
4. Check all the lights
5. Start the engine – watch for exhaust smoke at start up as well as during driving. Listen carefully for any strange engine/gearbox and diff noises. If any present – investigate…
6. Check the condition of all the tyres – uneven wear and tear may be the result of suspension damage, wheel alignment or wheel balance issues
7. When inspecting the interior – torn material and seemingly unnecessary wear on things like carpets, the rubber boots on the brake and clutch pedals, even on the steering wheel may show up inconsistencies when comparing the year model and odometer reading of the car.
8. All good? Radio off? Now go for a drive. Once again listen for any strange noise – be mindful of the handling of the car and drive far enough to check for any signs of overheating.

Final step

1. If you are comfortable with the aforementioned – negotiate the price
2. Don’t give in to undue pressure and if this persists, again it may be wise to just walk away
3. Once agreed upon though – ensure that you have all the required paper work and if possible, the service history
4. Make payment and take charge of your new/old wheels

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