Buying a 2nd Hand Car? Be On Look Out For…

Our lives are marked by big ticket milestones. Whitegoods, electronics, holidays and cars all require saving, consideration and research. But what if you’re buying your new vehicle second hand? The pre-loved car is a quirky beast; it’s already seen a few kilometres and accumulated some memories with its old owner. The guys are the Gearbox and Diff Shop have compiled a checklist of things to look out for when buying a second hand car – don’t inherit somebody else’s on-road woes.

Value For Money

So how do you know your chosen one is value embodied? Research. Before you leave your home, contact sellers or car yards and start test driving a few contenders, get to know your market. Find out how much your shortlist is selling for, accounting for condition, history and kilometres; explore competing models or badges, assessing your needs and desires; decide on a budget and stick to it. If you’re contacting second hand car yards, run a reputation check on your favourite search engine first, taking time to read reviews.

The Books

Service books and other log books should be available to any and all prospective buyers, whether you’re purchasing through a private advertiser or doing a deal with a local car yard. This history allows you to track the history of the vehicle, noting any work completed, issues noted and repaired damage.

Damage & Quirk Report

All cars have quirks – one may have a tendency to stall in the rain or cold weather, another may make a bit of racket upon start up or suffer from a delayed gear change (one to watch for in autos). Getting the bare-faced truth from a seller before purchase is essential – don’t buy sign unseen or untested. Similarly, make sure the your soon-to-be set of wheels is in the green and not an old write-off; hail damage and accidents can have long lasting effects beyond the surface aesthetic of a car.


Check the odometer number against the advertisement, adjusting for any very recent use – the seller may still be driving the car. High kilometre cars can be perceived in two ways; reliable or on their last legs. To determine which applies to your vehicle, consider the overall condition of the car – has it been well taken care of? Does it present well, with a clear service history? If you can answer yes and yes, the car most likely falls into the reliable camp. Last leg contenders are often old 80s, early 90s models – they’ve seen better days, they’ve lasted to the distance but rust is an inevitability in old cars.

Always grab original versions of everything during the paperwork phase, including registration. Never accept photocopies. If you’re not comfortable with a sale, always remember, you can walk away!

Comments are closed.