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The five golden rules of used cars

Buying a used car, there are more checks to perform before you drive off.

Here are the top five things that you need to look out for.

Used cars can be in any condition from practically new, carefully maintained examples to cars on their last legs. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly inspect any used car you’re looking at; but where do you start?

Motorama Brisbane Compliance Plate Build Date MY Model Year 2014 2015 2016 2017 VIN Sales Specials New Used Demonstrator

Compliance/Build Date

The year your car was built might not be the biggest issue when you’re on the road; but when you’re buying or selling it can often mean the difference between negotiating a final sale price on the vehicle.

Simply put, the date your car was ‘complied’ is when it was approved by authorities for sale in Australia, while the build date refers to when it was put together in the factory. These don’t necessarily have to be the same date or even close together; a car could have been built in November 2010, but not complied until February 2011 for example.

This is where it pays to check the compliance and build date on a used car, which is stamped onto a plate somewhere in the car (some vehicles have it in the driver’s door jamb, others put it in the engine bay.)

If a car has been advertised as a 2015 model, for example, based on its compliance date – but was built in 2014, you can negotiate with a seller to reconsider their price as their car is ‘older’ than similar cars on the market.

Similarly, you can also find out if any upgrades have occurred, or if you’d prefer a newer or older model based on the styling, as carmakers often tweak their models with upgrades throughout it’s lifetime.

For example, if a car has been on sale for seven years, mechanically, nothing particularly changes – however to keep sales up, the carmaker gives it a new front end after a couple of years, and introduces minor safety upgrades to stay in line with ANCAP’s stricter requirements for a 5 star rating.

So, if you preferred the original styling, you might be on the lookout for early models, while someone who just wants the safety features would shop for that upgrade.

Service history

Servicing your car is important to keep it running smoothly, and while you might keep up with your scheduled servicing – others aren’t always as diligent.

A car with one or two skipped services may not be the worst example of a car on sale, but when you look at the logbook and the services history is patchy then you can start asking questions. It may not become a problem, but an irregular service history can mean that certain maintenance items were skipped and when those things break or go wrong – the bill will be passed on to you.

You can use a lack of service history to bargain with a seller, especially if major services have been missed in the past. Equally, you can command a higher price if a car you’re selling has an impeccable history of being serviced on time with quality parts and reliable labour.

If you’re looking for a car as hassle-free as possible, a complete service history will be much more reliable than a car that’s missing a few logbook services; but if you really want a particular model of car, and you’re willing to spend a little time and effort having the car checked over by mechanics – you can negotiate with the seller to lower their price based on the money that you’ll have to spend getting back to a condition that you’d be happy to own.

Tyre tread

Not many people have the mechanical background to give a car a comprehensive check, and even someone who knows their way around an engine bay doesn’t have the time or space to give a car an expert inspection.

One thing that you can give the once over when you’re inspecting a car is the tyres. The four wheels can tell you lots about the car you’re buying, even if you’re pressed for time or faced with a slick seller who’s telling you everything you want to hear.

Examine the tread of the tyre. While it’s fine if the tyres are worn in (although it would be better if they had been recently replaced), check to see if the tread has worn evenly. If the front tyres are losing their tread but the rear tyres look almost new, for example, it might indicate a problem with the wheel alignment.

If all the tread is evenly worn, but the tyres are due for replacement within the next year, you can bargain the cost of a new set of wheels out of the selling price – or, similarly, ask the seller to pay for a new set of tyres as part of the deal.

Carhistory Reports

Looking at a used car, it might look neat and tidy on the surface but who knows what’s hidden in its past. A cut and polish may hide bigger problems underneath the metal.

Carhistory can provide a comprehensive report based on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) including whether its ever been stolen, water damaged, written off in an accident and even the average market price for similar cars based on their odometer readings.

While it does cost money to get the report, it’s a small price to pay compared to committing to a car that later turns out to have problems down the road.

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Recall status

When a recall is issued for a car, it’s usually for something that will affect you on the road, but isn’t always the worst mark against a vehicle.

Carmakers used to only issue recalls for the most serious safety breaches, but nowadays recalls can cover anything that will distract from the experience of using your car, so a car with a recall history or in line to be repaired doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs to be avoided.

What it does mean, however, is to ask about whether a car you’re looking at is affected by any recalls, and do your research into whether it ever was affected by a recall and if it was properly repaired by a dealership.

This applies to cars that could be several years old, with some recalls affecting vehicles stretching back to the start of a particular component being used or process in the factory that has since been changed.

If you do find, in the process of researching a potential purchase, that a car is subject to a recall or has been in the past, you can ask whether it has been booked in for its recall service or not.

The Australian Government is required to publish all active product recalls, and you can search their database to see if a car you’re looking at is affected.

Motorama has hundreds of used cars in stock, fully inspected and serviced by our expert mechanics and given a guarantee of clear title, to save you headaches and get you on the road as soon as possible.

And if you’re selling your car to upgrade into something that better suits your lifestyle, Motorama can help you get a no obligation quote on the trade in value while you browse the range of new, demonstrator and used vehicles.