Buying a used car? Here’s a guide to avoid scams and regret

Published: November 9, 2018
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n this photograph taken on July 26, 2015, people gather around cars at the Sunday car market in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

After all the hard work and saving every penny, you are all set to buy your first car. You are now ready to say goodbye to the frantic public transport system or the unsafe two-wheeler. At this point, it is extremely important to take precaution to avoid wasting your hard earned money.

Not everyone can afford the high cost of buying a new car, which is why most of the ambitious car buyers prefer to purchase used cars. Chances are that inexperienced buyers often become prey of tricky dealers and regret their decisions later. The steps listed in this guide will ensure that you get value for the money spent on your purchase.

Researching the suitable make and model

The first step is to decide the right make and model. You can research it at your home or office as there are a number of online selling platforms, such as OLX and PakWheels, making the process very easy. Simply visit these websites, enter your price range and note down the makes and models available in your range. Once you shortlist two to three makes and models, find out their pros and cons. The major factors to consider are reliability, fuel consumption, resale value and maintenance. The last two are extremely important.

Researching the price

Once you have decided the make and model, it is time to research the right price. Again, online selling platforms can offer great help. Search the desired model and note down the price of all available ads for the model. You should then calculate the median (average) of all the ads and then reduce it by 5-10%. This is because the demand of most users is negotiable and higher than the market price. The calculated amount should be used as the starting point.

Where to buy?

The car can be bought from used car showrooms, online selling platforms and Sunday markets, but each option comes with its own precautions.

The showrooms usually demand a high price and offer cars in poor conditions. You will be lucky to find a good car at the showrooms. The online selling platforms demand physical effort. You need to visit the seller’s location. That can be hectic and dangerous, yet you can buy good cars here. In Sunday market, you can find lots of cars at one location. However, most of the sellers are car dealers. They excel at deceiving you with the decorative aspects of faulty cars.

In short, all options are equally challenging and finding a good car isn’t a piece of cake. You need to be patient and spend a few weeks to get your hands on a good car.

What to check in the car?

You have finally found your desired make in the desired price range. You should then inspect the car in the following order:

Body condition:

Yes, body is the most important part of a used car. Many mechanics and gurus will convince you that engine is more important. The engines of most standard-economical cars can be overhauled in less than Rs30,000 and replaced in Rs30,000-60,000. The body is irreplaceable and is the true identity of a car. Make sure you inspect the car in daytime and ensure that the car has not undergone any major accident.

Check whether the paint is original. In most of the more than 10-year-old models, this is not the case. Inquire whether the car had minor touch-ups or complete repaint and avoid buying in case of the latter. Inspect the floor, pillars and door borders to make sure they are not rusty.

History and documents:

The next step is to verify the history and documents. Start by ensuring originality of both number plates. Compare the engine number and chassis number punched on the car (under the hood) with the documents. Ring CPLC to make sure the car is (or was) not stolen. You should refrain from buying a car that was stolen in the past to avoid complications at the time of resale.

Inspect the copy of National Identification Card (CNIC) of the owner and original invoice of the manufacturer. Inquire about the tax dues and excise clearance. If the deal is finalised, do not forget to take CNIC of the seller and delivery letter along with other documents.

Engine and suspension:

You will need services of a mechanic to check more technical aspects. You should get the car inspected by the mechanic only if you are fully satisfied with the price, body condition and documents. On a lighter note, check the personality of the seller. Look at the confidence asserted by the seller and ask for a test drive. If the car is reliable, the seller won’t hesitate to give you a test drive or drive it to the mechanic.

Other aspects:

The other factors include mileage, car accessories, interior, rims and tires. Although these areas are not fundamental, they can reveal a lot about the car history. The interior of a carefully maintained car will speak for itself. Ignore the seat covers, footpads, door covers and a nice-looking perfume on the dashboard. They do not cost more than Rs5,000.

Remember, body condition, document and price are the three key factors to consider. It is not worth spending a penny on rusted or completely repainted cars as their lifespan is short. Seek help of a mechanic or a sincere friend, but only if you are satisfied with the factors mentioned above.

Murad Ali

Murad Ali

The writer is a chartered accountant by qualification and an internal auditor by profession. He loves history and science.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Patwari

    Great advice. Great list of “to do’s” before buying a used car.
    Great blog.
    Obviously, do not carry a large amount of cash, when going
    out to buy a used car. There are some very dangerous people
    out there. They have no intention of selling their car, or THE car,
    which is called the “hook” in slang. To draw people. To rob them.Recommend

  • Patwari

    The “hook” scam, is used all over the world. From New York to Paris to Tokyo, [not in Singapore!]
    and all points in between.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice article ….with sound advice.Recommend

  • Afzaal M. Khan

    In Rawalpindi bazaar is held on Fridays and invariably the cars are of dubious origin as are the sellers. A complete racket for the uninitiated buyer . Best to buy from a known source.Recommend

  • shaziarizwan

    Nice Article, I purchase many times car online but now I will take care of above suggestions.Recommend

  • Sami

    Useful advice.Recommend