Car Buying Guide

Buying Used Cars

The law in Ireland is buyer beware, this means you have little or no come back when you buy privately Why do most people sell their used cars? Answer, they want to upgrade usually because they think something is going to go wrong with their old car. Why do most people buy used cars? Answer, they want to upgrade usually because they think something is going to go wrong with their old car. Obviously there are exceptions, won the lottery, death in the family, emigration…etc Buying used cars privately can be risky, but it’s also the best value for money. With that in mind we created this “Used Car Buying Guide” to help give you some wisdom in what to look out for when buying a used car.

Issue One: Clocking

The first issue to look out for is “Clocking”. Clocking a car is the process of digitally dialling the mileage counter backwards to make it seem that the car has done fewer miles. A leading car organisation found that 55% of used cars had been clocked i.e. mileage turned back. This is only the cars they found. How many more went unnoticed? Over 55% of used cars are not what they seem to be but an expert can tell just by looking over the car.I have found that certain models are more likely to be clocked BMW , audi, ford,for example goes as high as 80% 4 out of 5 . The one owner car is the most suspect as nobody can disprove the mileage. Extended warranty cars with a mileage limit could be clocked many times to keep the car warranted. Renault cars suffer from electrical dash problems might have two or three new sets of clocks in its life all starting from 0. It takes skill and years of experience to assess whether a car has been “clocked” or not. Car dealers are experts and they buy from the internet. They do not care if the car has been clocked as long as they can prove that they bought it with X mileage and it shows clear on cartell. So even buying from a forecourt is no guarantee that you are getting what you paid for. Main dealers specific to your model are the best to buy from by a long margin and are worth the extra money over forecourt prices, however they may not stock older models.

Issue Two: Electronics

In today’s computerised world cars are controlled by many computers which all communicate with each other. With such complexity problems occur. These problems can cost unbelievable amounts to repair. A small fault can cost thousands to put right. Only an experienced expert with the right diagnostic tools can tell if the car has hidden electrical issues. More cars end their useful lives with electrical problems rather than mechanical problems. Warning lights on the dashboard mean there is a problem. No warning lights where there should be indicates there is something hidden.

Issue Three: Mechanical Problems

To my knowledge there are no bad makes of cars. They are all in competition with each other and last for X amount of miles. However there are exceptions. Certain models will self destruct at X miles whilst other models go on and on. Having examined tens of thousands of cars over the past 32 years I know exactly what to look for and what to advise buyers to avoid. For example, avoid high milage VW Polos, Skodas and Seats that share the 1.2 engine. Clutch The most common issue with cars I examine is the clutch. The clutch is a part that is designed to wear out and is expexted to be replaced at some time. A car driven in this stop start speed bump ridled city will wear out a clutch faster than a country car. Damaged, but operational clutches are a very common problem. Clutches can be very expensive to replace from €350 to €1350. An average family car would cost €900. An expert can tell if a clutch is faulty and liable to fail. Emissions The NCT demands that cars reach certain emission parameters and will fail cars that do not reach guidelines. The complexity of electronics and their sensors together with catalytic converters and other emission control devices mean that repairs can cost thousands even if the car appears to be running well. A worn engine will not pass an NCT emission test. Over Heating A common problem with older cars is over heating. This can come about by water pump failure, radiator blockage, faulty fan motor or burst pipes. Any of these can cause the cylinder head to distort and the head gasket to blow. This can be difficult to detect and even experienced mechanics frequently get it wrong so there is no quick guide to testing, but if a car heater does not work or the heater feels excessively hot it’s a bad sign. Avoid cars that either overheat or have overheated in the past.

Clutch

The most common issue with cars I examine is the clutch. The clutch is a part that is designed to wear out and is expected to be replaced at some time. A car driven in this stop start speed bump ridled city will wear out a clutch faster than a country car. Damaged, but operational clutches are a very common problem. Clutches can be very expensive to replace from €350 to €1350. An average family car would cost €900. An expert can tell if a clutch is faulty and liable to fail.

Overheating

A common problem with older cars is over heating. This can come about by waterpump failure, radiator blockage, faulty fan motor or burst pipes. Any of these can cause the cylinder head to distort and the head gasket to blow. This can be difficult to detect and even experienced mechanics frequently get it wrong so there is no quick guide to testing, but if a car heater does not work or the heater feels excessively hot it's a bad sign. Avoid cars that either overheat or have overheated in the past.

Emissions

The NCT demands that cars reach certain emission parameters and will fail cars that do not reach guidelines. The complexity of electronics and their sensors together with catalytic converters and other emission control devices mean that repairs can cost thousands even if the car appears to be running well. A worn engine will not pass an NCT emission test.

Issue Four: Accident Damage

Accident damage that has been properly repaired is not a big issue. The NCT test demands that cars drive straight and true so it’s unlikely that a car with a recent NCT test will have excessive damage, but a damaged repaired car usually has a lower value than an undamaged car. Most used cars will have the odd dent or scuff and might even have had some bodywork, but this is to be expected. An expert should be able to detect any damage past or present.

Should I Ask A Friend?

Calling on a friend to examine a car for you is not the best way to go about it because he thinks he is there to find something wrong with it and is likely to err on the side of caution and advise you not to buy until you get fed up and buy the third car you view regardless of condition (statistically you will buy the third car you view). Friends seldom look for what is right in the car as they are not independent. If the car turns out to be a dud you fall out with your friend. It’s better to get independent help. So avoid putting a friend on the spot.

A Few Quick Tips

Don’t meet in car park, only view a car from an address and make sure the seller comes out of the house and that the car is registered to that address. (Beware of scams) Don’t bring any more than a deposit on first contact. (Beware of scams) Beware of going to an address that does not exist and phoning the seller who says he will come to you. (Beware of scams)

Remember The Law

In Ireland it's "Buyer beware" in all circumstances. So don't get caught out. Hire an expert today.

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