//A sneak peek into the lucrative used car market//
The used car market in India is a steadily growing sector. From 1.6 million units in 2011 (worth Rs 38,000 crore), today the market stands at Rs 98,000 crore, with over 3.5 million cars in trade. The used car market is a much more organised sector today than it was 5-6 years back and with a flurry of newer models flooding the market every month, consumers are spoilt for choice. Also it is a good option for people who are on a budget but have the passion to own and drive a big car. As a second family car too, a good pick from the used car market is a good option. With better safety and reliability standards these days, and shorter ownership cycles, used cars are no longer craps and can make for a good deal. But the lure of having a dream car at less than half its original cost also comes with its share of pitfalls. Before buying a used car, here are some of the major issues which need to be taken care of, because in the end, it is the peace of mind that matters. If your purchase ends up burning a hole in your pocket, your whole objective goes haywire and you buy a lifetime of worries for all the money you spend. There can be one hundred ways to assess a used car but there are some basic checks which need to be done mandatorily. Here is a lowdown.
1. Where to buy: There are multiple sources and the choice is yours. There are newspaper ads, ads on websites and word of mouth information. There are multiple used car dealers in every city and there are also friends or acquaintances who would be selling off their vehicles. The best is to go for an authorised dealer like Maruti True Value or Mahindra First Choice, because they do the mandatory mechanical checks for you and also give warranty cover on your purchase. These dealers save you from all the paperwork hassle and also arrange finances in case you are short of cash. Unauthorised roadside used car dealers are better avoided. It is also a good idea to buy a car being sold by an office colleague or your boss or a friend. This way you know the car better and also expect better credibility.
2. External checks: (i) Now that you have located your car, the basic thing is to gauge how it looks. If the car looks shabby, obviously it is sign of poor maintenance and also reflects upon the car’s ability to stand abuse. Closely watch for the paint job—it should be original. Close observation can reveal the sore points if there are any. Any recoating of the paint or discolouration, or patchwork etc are easily visible to the naked eye. This means the car might have had an accident in the past, which would warrant a more diligent inspection and thorough checking of the service record etc.
(ii) Once you are done with this, check for the suspension. It is one of the easiest jobs in external check. Just push down the bonnet and feel how the car rebounds. Ideally it should not spring back instantly, nor it should be too slow to regain its position. There must not be any sound and the car mast have a relaxed rebound trajectory.
(iii) Next check has to be for dents and rusts. If the body of the car has dents or undulations then it must have been recklessly driven or have faced accidents. Check on the inside too. Remove the mats inside and thoroughly check for rusts and holes. The floor of the car must be strong and impeccable. Also see the boot area in the same way.
(iv) Check the tyres well. The treads must be clearly visible. They must be of the same size and preferably of the same make and must be uniform in wear and tear. The rims need special scrutiny. They must not be bent or uneven or rusted at any place.
(v) Another check which needs to be done is to scan the car by standing exactly diagonally on one side and go over the roof. Such a stance will reveal the angles clearly and any discrepancy or lack of uniformity can easily be caught, which will indicate the car might have been out of an accident.
(vi) Open the bonnet and check the engine. If you are not too well versed carry along a reliable mechanic with you. Closely see all the hosepipes and belts. Any break or excessive wear and tear must not be entertained. Check the engine oil, blades and the electricals. There must not be any loose fittings.
3. Internal Checks: (i) Sit inside the car and spend sometime there. Hold the steering, adjust it for rake and reach if it has the option, slide and adjust the seat for height and lumbar support and see if there is any unsavoury sound or technical glitch. Scan the glove box, the fittings and lights, stowage places, other conveniences like mobile chargers, rear a/c vents etc. Sit on the rear bench and take stock of the thigh support, the leg space, the recline, the head and shoulder space, the transmission tunnel intrusion level, ingress and egress angles, quality of the seat covers etc, soak in the feel and ambience and only then go ahead.
(ii) The next thing is to drive the car, which is also the single most important check among all things. Driving it in real life gives you tons of information which a static car cannot. Drive it on all sorts of roads— on an open stretch, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, on potholes and cesspools, on inclines and reclines, in speed and in slow mo and check for any vibrations or unbecoming behaviour. Check hard braking, check the horn, indicators, lights, wipers, pickup and acceleration, AC effectiveness and the speakers etc. Keep the ears open for any unwanted or unexpected sound, from the brakes, suspension or any other loosely hanging body part or a creaking door or a squeaking bumper. Also particularly check the smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe. It should ideally be colourless. Milky white or dark sooty smoke can mean a flawed engine.
4. Check the papers: Though authorised dealers are very particular with the papers, a self check is also advisable. Be clear about the insurance papers, name and address of the owner, go for the service records and match the chassis and registration number with the originals. Raise queries in case of any doubt. Also sometimes the badge is wrong/changed from the original. The papers clarify the exact engine specifications. A 1.3 lt engine can be sold at a higher price by showing it as a 1.5 lt one.
5. Some other salient points:
(i) Prefer a reliable brand like a Maruti or Hyundai, Toyota or Honda. Tata for instance is often a hit and miss game when it comes to reliability. Old Skoda and Nissan vehicles also have reliability issues. Also brands like Maruti, Huyndai, Mahindra and Honda have better resale value than some other brands like a Chevy or Fiat for instance.
(ii) Avoid buying a used car if the brand is no longer operating. This may create problems in availability of spare parts. Also some car brands have expensive spare parts and also poor after sales service history. Ford or Skoda for instance have expensive spares while Tata after sales is often not up to the mark.
(iii) Also learn to bargain. Used cars have no fixed price and are often inflated. Haggle with the dealer and bring it down. Often phased-out or low selling models can be had for a pittance.
(iv) Don’t rely blindly on the odometer. It can be tampered with. Go by the service record or logbook which every sensible car buyer maintains. Also don’t be a third or fourth user. If a car has been sold several times in short succession, it may have issues.
(v) Don’t fall in the trap of less usage. A car less used is not good for its engine. Ideally go for a 5-7 year old car, which has not done more than 60,000 to 70,000 kms. Petrol cars are a tad better maintained and sometimes lesser worn out than diesel ones.