Buying a car is a major decision. Many people spend a great deal of time in their cars, and so they want to make sure they get value for money and something they can rely on.
First things first – determine a fair price. You don’t want to fork out over the market value, new or used, so take a look around to ascertain the going rate. If it’s a new car then take a look at price guides on the main brand website. Or, if you’re going private, then consult online forums like Carzone.ie, DoneDeal.ie and CBG.ie to see what similar models are going for. Don’t be afraid to use these comparisons to bargain. There’s no point in paying €5,000 if you can get it for €4,500.
Diesel vs petrol. The age-old feud. Diesel cars may be cheaper to run in terms of fuel, particularly when it comes to those who spend a lot of time on the road, but they cost more to maintain and are generally more expensive to buy. In addition, many newer petrol cars are far more environmentally-friendly and cheaper to run than their predecessors, so it could pay you to opt for the petrol version particularly if you’re looking for a small car. Don’t forget – mpg figures claimed by car companies are generally attained under very optimal circumstances. Visit websites like HonestJohn.co.uk to discover true fuel economy figures.
Next up – private vs dealership? It can be a difficult choice to make (unless you’re buying a brand new car), considering you’ll often buy a car privately for less. The difference comes in paying for peace of mind and trying to avoid winding up with someone else’s problem. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for dealers posing as private sellers. If they’re posting on sites like Carzone, see if they have any other vehicles listed. Or, if there’s a phone number, run a quick Google search on it to see what turns up.
Test drive. That BMW might look tasty but you’ve no idea how well it runs until you take it for a spin – the longer the better. Try it on a variety of road surfaces and conditions to get a feel for its capabilities, and immediately take note of the positives and negatives. Check the brakes by pressing down relatively hard, enough to slow rapidly – there’s shouldn’t be any vibrations or squealing noises.
Always carry out an inspection on level ground. Walk around of the car, examine the paintwork and panel consistencies and keep an eye out for evidence of respraying (the car may have been involved in an accident), tyre wear or wear on the pedals or steering wheel that doesn’t match the odometer (could be an indicator that the odometer has been fiddled with).
If you can, get underneath and check around the exhaust system, and look for rust on the underbody. Under the bonnet, one of the biggest items to look out for is the timing belt, which can be expensive to replace. Bring some tissue and dip the engine for oil – too much or too little could mean a car that hasn’t been very well looked after. Lighter, coffee-coloured oil could indicate the head gasket is going or gone, which means that you should be too.
Inside, check that all keys, lights, electrical functions, sensors, radio/CD player etc are all working. The simplest way to do this is to turn on every single switch. Open the boot and look for signs of water or water damage, and make sure there’s a spare wheel and the tools to change it. If you’re not confident about checking the car out yourself, bring a trusted friend or pay a mechanic to carry out an inspection – it might cost you now but it could save you more in future.
Above all, and as with anything, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! Always do your homework, carry out inspections and walk away if your gut tells you something isn’t right. There are plenty of great new and used cars out there, you may just have to sift through the mud to discover the gold.