Update: Do also read the updated article I wrote here in 2014: How to buy a used car in Singapore

I saw this discussion and couldn’t help but write a short blog entry on this.

If you’re ever buying a used car, you need to set your expectations right. Ask yourself – why did the car get so much cheaper after the first owner and even more so after its first three years? That’s because the warranty’s over and the first owner has farted all over it.

Here’s some quick tips for the potential used car buyers.

  • Buying a used car is not like buying a new car. Don’t bother negotiating for freebies and warranty. True warranty for used cars hardly exists. Negotiate for price, save the extra cash for repairs, and most importantly – do your homework. Don’t stop at one shop.
  • STA is good for chassis inspection, i.e. if it has been in any major accidents that has compromised the main structural strength. If you get A or B grade, then the car is in good shape. Never accept anything with a C and below.
  • Don’t trust the mileage – even on high end continental cars this is reprogrammable for a fee. Afterall, it’s just a damn computer! Look for obvious signs of wear in other areas like steering wheel, seat belts and gear knobs. These are usually costly to replace and dealers don’t replace them.
  • Don’t look at superficial stuff. Dull paintwork can be fixed with a polishing job. Poor upholstery can be re-wrapped. That stench in the car is easily fixed if you just get the upholstery  and carpets removed and washed.
  • During the test drive make sure you test everything. Request for a longer route so the engine warms up. Shift through all the gears including reverse and look out for rough shifts. Turn off the air-con and radio to listen for noises. Turn the steering left and right and check for noises or free play. Let the steering go free on a straight road to see if the wheels are tracking straight. Go over humps and see if the suspension has gone bad. Get on the brakes at both low and high speeds and look out for vibrations that may indicate a warped brake discs. Accelerate suddenly then let the throttle off and see if the engine stalls. Don’t turn off the engine after a test drive – pop the bonnet and listen to the engine run at idle. Look for oil or coolant leaks under the car.
  • Be prepared to have it serviced and repaired the moment you buy it. Cars are mechanical and there will certainly be  wear and tear. Do you think the previous owner bothered to service the car when they know they’re about to sell them? Have timing belts changed, oil and other fluids changed for a peace of mind.
  • Do your research. I can’t emphasize more on this. If you are intent on buying a specific model of car please join the various car forums and learn about the common issues of the car and look out for them.
  • Do your math. Don’t buy something that burdens you. Make sure you are able to finance it and sell it without having to cough up more cash. Usually this means taking a shorter loan term and paying a decent down payment in the region of $10,000 or about half the OMV.

Once you’ve made the purchase, the most important thing is to enjoy the ride and just fix the problems that come. Take it as a learning experience and I believe you will be happy with your second hand motor for few good years ahead.