20 August 2014 13:30 | By Andrew Brady, Ed Soluk
Buying a used car: What to look out for

Used car buyer's guide: Introduction

Used cars: what to look out for (© Andrew Brady | Motoring Research)
  • Used cars: what to look out for (© Andrew Brady | Motoring Research)
  • Used cars: what to look out for - 10: suspension repairs (© Nissan)
  • Used cars: what to look out for - 9: cambelts (© Andrew Brady | Motoring Research)
  • Used cars: what to look out for - 8: engine remapping (© Andrew Brady | Motoring Research)
  • Used cars: what to look out for 7: gearbox repairs (© Andrew Brady | Motoring Research)
  • Things that go wrong on used cars 6: diagnostics (© Ferrari)
  • Used cars: what to look out for - 5: brake repairs (© Andrew Brady | Motoring Research)
  • Used cars: what to look out for - 4: electrics (© Andrew Brady | Motoring Research)
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Financially, it may be better to buy a new car than a nearly new one. But some of us just can’t afford a brand new ride. Whocanfixmycar.com, a site that helps car owners find mechanics in their local area, says that there has been an increase in requests for repairs in January this year by up to 25 percent, suggesting that people will be sprucing up their old cars for the year to come.

That's good news if you're in the market for a used car, but it pays to be well prepared before you start your search in earnest.

Click through the gallery above to find out the top 10 things to look out for on second-hand cars.

Aug 25, 2014 3:14AM
make sure all the parts are in good condition
Aug 26, 2014 2:00AM
All of us are just layman in looking out for car problem. Unless you know a mechanic who is willing to look into the car in detail for you, I strongly recommend you use the Used Car Pre-purchase Evaluation service provided by Automobile Association of Singapore.

They have experienced mechanic who will test drive the car for any problem on the road. After the test drive, the car will be taken into their inspection bay for detail inspection and other tests on the vehicle. The whole process takes about 90 minutes. After that, a detail evaluation report will be written. The mechanic will bring the potential buyer into a room and explain the report. The report is for the potential buyers to keep. This evaluation service is an independent, unbias and honest assessment of the car. The mechanic can only tell you that state of the car based on their professionalism. This will enable you to make an informed decision. They are not allowed to recommend you to buy or not to buy a car. They are suppose to stay neutral.

The service cost only about $120 (members about $100).  It is not that expensive considering 10s of thousand you will be paying.

Previously, I had sent a used 6 year old Honda Civic for evaluation. The report indicated that the car had experienced frontal impact (must be accident), there were leaks in many area, and many other problems. Basically, the car looks good on the outside, but the inside is rotting and in need of complete overhaul. We decided that it was not worth purchasing the car and the deal was off.

Another time, I sent another used 6 year old Honda Civic. This time the report came clean with only 2 minor problems. The dealer fixed the the problems before delivery. My brother was happy driving the car without any problem.
Aug 26, 2014 1:35AM
Nothing is said about the tyres. I guess it should be obvious. Look out for uneven wear between tyres (left and right, front and rear). Seemingly different tyre age? Different brand tyres? This should give you idea of alignment problem of the car and attitude of previous owners towards the car.

Play the sound system... don't need to be very loud, but loud enough.. volume level about 35%. Increase the bass to the maximum level. If you hear abnormal sound which sounds like something is beating a cardboard or no bass at all, you have damaged speakers.

Most dealers or owners try to mask the damaged speakers by lowering the bass to the minimum level and play the music softly. Most buyers will not think of testing the sound system. As long as we hear the music, we are happy. When we took possession of the car, we get frustrated. I had the 4 speakers replaced for about $250. That's the cheapest I can find. 
Aug 26, 2014 1:29AM
Regarding servicing, I don't know how you come about with the near 20,000km or 1 year between service. Which car manufacturer recommend that? I don't remember Mazda, Honda or Peugeot recommend that in their owner manual.

Assuming that synthetic motor oil is used, oil manufacturers recommend the engine oil be changed every 10,000km or 6 months between oil change, which ever reach first. I have not come across a petrol engined car in singapore which recommended oil change at 20,000km or 1 year period. So, most common servicing period is really half of what you stated in the article. This should be 10,000km or 6 months period.

For older cars, like those more than 10 years, owners are recommended to use thicker mineral oil, unless the engine is completely overhauled. Using mineral oil, the servicing period is more frequent at 5,000km or 3 months between change.

I also noticed the article seem to focus on old manual transmission car. Most cars these days are auto transmission and people are most likely to buy auto transmission car than manual transmission. unless the car is more than 20 years old. Yeah, my first car was an used 17 year old car with manual transmission. That was nearly 20 years ago.

What's the big deal of auto car? First, they don't have clutch to wear out and does not use manual gear box. Auto car has auto transmission box (different way to change gear) in replacement of manual gear box. It much harder to know that auto transmission box is going to fail you. With proper maintenance, the auto transmission box should serve well in the first 10 years. Auto transmission oil need to be changed every 50,000km or 3 years. However, if the car is being punished so hard, the auto transmission box will still give way early. Replacement of auto transmission box is extremely costly... ranging from around $2500 to $7000.

Since it is hard to trace the servicing history, I recommend that get engine oil and transmission oil changed at the next service. The previous owner or car dealer should be able to tell you the last service date.

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