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Buying a used car? Watch out for these 5 red flags

Buying a used car can save you serious money but it can be risky as well. Make the wrong choice and you could end up spending money on a lemon, or even risk falling victim to a scam.

Make sure that doesn’t happen to you watch out for these 5 red flags.

1. Too good to be true

When browsing used cars online, you may come across one that’s priced lower than other similar vehicles. Your first instinct may be to quickly enquire and snap up a good deal, but slow your roll – that low price could be a red flag.

If a car is listed with a bargain price, it’s often to lure buyers into rushing the purchase. This may be because the car has finance owing on it, in which case the finance company could repossess the vehicle.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you search the Personal Property Securities Register for the vehicle before you buy or buy from a reputable dealer in your area.

2. Unsafe vehicle

When you buy a used car, safety should be top of your mind. But unfortunately, older vehicles tend to be less safe as they often don’t feature modern safety and collision avoidance technology.

Before you purchase a used car, always check its Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) safety rating. This rating system awards vehicles a star rating of zero to five – with zero being very unsafe and five being very safe. You should always try and buy a five if you can and steer clear of ones and twos.

3. Lacking service or repair history

You never know how a car will behave after you purchase it but if you know its service and repair history, you can get a fairly good idea. A vehicle that has been serviced regularly and hasn’t been in any major accidents will usually be more reliable and expensive to run in the long run than one that hasn’t.

For that reason, you should always look for used cars with complete and verifiable service histories and avoid those that don’t have them.

4. Telltale signs of wear and tear

When you test drive a used car, watch out for the following, which could be signs of a problem:

  • Brake pedal that feels pressed all the way to the floor or offers no resistance. 
  • Brakes that screech, knock or pull to one side when you apply them. 
  • Warning lights on the dash. 
  • Steering wheel that doesn’t point straight ahead when driving straight. 
  • Steering wheel that vibrates when you drive. 
  • Pulls to one side when you accelerate. 
  • Gear changes that are rough or jerky. 

There are many more signs of wear, tear, and damage that may be harder to notice. It’s almost always worth getting a professional mechanic to test a used car before you buy.

5. No inspection

NEVER buy a used car without inspecting it or at very least having a professional mechanic inspect it on your behalf. If a private seller makes it difficult for you to inspect or tells you that it’s not possible for you to do so, that is a big red flag. At this stage, it’s usually best to avoid the seller and choose another car.

Buying the right used car for you can be tricky. As well as watching out for the red flags above, buying from a reputable car dealer can be a great way to protect yourself. Start your search for a quality used car with a seller you can trust – your local Niccars dealership.

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