Buying a used car is going to feel like stepping onto a minefield, especially if you’re a first-time buyer.
“Which dealer do I go to?” and “What brand should I buy?” are some of the top questions that come to mind.
Then there’s the part that scares buyers the most – what if the vehicle in question has had its odometer tampered with? What if the mileage is a lot higher and you’re being fleeced?
Look out for these telltale signs of cheating when you’re buying a used car.
1) THE ODOMETER READING IS ABSURDLY LOW.
The biggest telltale sign that buyers miss or ignore when buying a used car is the very low mileage showing on the odometer.
Unscrupulous dealers who have tampered with the odometer will be quick to highlight and continually emphasise how the car was “hardly used” or the “previous owner’s second car”.
The average car here in Singapore clocks about 16,000km annually. So, if you see a five-year-old car for sale with only 30,000km instead of 80,000km, you should be already be wary.
However, if you’re buying a used exotic car, like a Lamborghini Aventador, the mileage will probably be very low to begin with.
Exotic machines seldom get driven. Their owners have too many other cars, and given their impracticalities, they’re not what you’d drive to run errands.
2) THE DEALER REFUSES TO LET YOU GET THE CAR CHECKED.
One of the easiest ways to tell if the car’s mileage is genuine is to send it to the authorised dealer (if it was sold by one).
Authorised dealers keep extensive maintenance records. For instance, the Mitsubishi i I once owned was indeed well-cared for by the first owner.
A check with Cycle & Carriage showed that the mileage was genuine. The service intervals were also adhered to. Even the recalls to change or update components were performed.
In contrast, a dealer who has something to hide will try to dissuade you from inspecting/investigating further.
Remember, when buying a used car, the dealer must be transparent. They must be willing to have the car sent back to the agent or checked over by a mechanic of your choice.
If they kick up a fuss, walk away. Which leads us to the next point…
3) ENSURE THE DEALER HAS CASETRUST ACCREDITATION
When buying a used car, find a dealer with CaseTrust accreditation. Companies with this accreditation must adhere to certain standards to demonstrate their commitment to fairness and transparency.
The last thing you should do is go to a fly-by-night dealer that has been in business for less than a year. Numerous such companies have been implicated in cheating cases.
Do your homework when buying a used car!
4) THE USED CAR SEEMS TO HAVE A NEW PAINT JOB.
We’re not all detailing experts here. But a five-year-old car shouldn’t have a paint job that looks factory-fresh.
A car that has been regularly washed, polished and wax will indeed have awesome-looking paint. But the paint will also have things like dings, fine scratches and perhaps some faint etchings from bird poop.
In other words, no paintwork is ever perfect. Not unless you’re buying a car that consistently wins concours competitions. Or one that has sat in someone’s living room its whole life.
A new paint job or mismatched hues from panel-to-panel are telltale signs of a previous accident. If the dealer is upfront about this, good for you. And kudos to them.
If they’re not, and/or try to deflect your questions, they may be hiding other things as well.
When in doubt, check!
Perhaps the dealer is forthcoming and has CaseTrust accreditation. But somehow, you’re still unsure.
Before buying a used car, make sure you check. Inspect the car. Ask questions. Ask to have it checked by the authorised dealer or a qualified mechanic.
Remember, a good dealer will not shy away from these queries.
They know that if they win your trust, they’ll have a repeat customer who will tell all their friends about them!