Women and Wheels

What You Must Know When Buying A Used Car


Buying a used car makes sense financially, because most new cars lose around 40% of their value in the first year. But there are risks so it’s important to take your time rather than rush into any deal, and to buy as far as possible with your head rather than your heart. Before you sign that deal, here are very important things you must watch out for.


Clocking is the illegal practice of winding back the odometer on a high–mileage car to increase its apparent value and asking price. Every 1,000 miles removed increases the value substantially.

Car cloning

Sometimes one car is given the identity of another by replacing the number plates with those from an almost identical vehicle – same make, model and colour.


This is when the remains of two or more cars, which have usually been accident–damaged and written off by insurers, are welded together, then illegally given the identity of one of the wrecks. The cosmetic work is often outstanding, and it’s usually very difficult to spot a ‘cut–and–shut’ from the outside.


Look at the interior wear and tear to see if it is in keeping with the mileage. It’s a good idea to check out a few of the same cars to get an idea of condition.


If the car isn’t clean walk away. Dirt could be hiding scratches, dents, rust or shoddy repairs. If you were selling your car would you not want it looking its best? Look underneath the car too for any signs of rust or damage. Make sure all the panels line up correctly and that the paint is the same colour and consistent all over.


If you’re not buying a show car and the engine bay is clean be very wary! There’s a good chance it’s been cleaned to hide a leak or some other problem. Check the oil, coolant and other fluid levels and open the oil cap to check the condition of the oil – if there are any white residues, brown sludge or the oil has lumps walk away!


Have a look at the tread depth as well as the general condition of the tyres. Uneven wear can signal suspension issues or if they are just generally worn it could be a sign of a car that isn’t looked after.


Make sure everything is working as it should – turn on the a/c or fans at full and make sure everything is in working order.


Open and close all locks, doors, windows to make sure there aren’t any issues. Keep an eye out for any signs of water leaks, paint on door rubbers/windows or uneven door shuts.

Test Drive

Get a friend to watch the exhaust when you start the car. Any blue or white smoke can be a sign of trouble. The engine should idle smoothly and rev evenly. You should be able to switch between gears smoothly without any grinding noises. If the clutch is too stiff or weak that could be a sign of trouble.

On the road the steering wheel should rotate easily. Listen out for any strange noises (turn off that radio) and be especially aware of any unusual road noise or vibrations.

Test the brakes and make sure they are responsive and without excessive vibrations or any noise. It’s also a good idea to test out the handbrake on a hillstart. Otherwise it’s a good idea to bring the car to a trusted mechanic for a full checkup before handing over any cash!