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Is That Second-Hand Car Reliable?

So you’re in the market for a new vehicle, but don’t want to dish out top dollar. You turn to the second-hand market, wondering if you can score yourself a bargain. What should you be on the lookout for? Is there any way to determine how reliable a used car is?

Due Diligence

The best place to start is with research. Look into which makes and models are known for their reliability. Consider your social circle, who drives what, and if they’ve encountered any problems. Jump on message boards and look for opinions from owners. Read motoring reviews, which should offer insights into common issues and the overall satisfaction of other owners.

Once you’re out and about visiting car yards or private sellers, begin to compare the options you narrow down to. When it comes to reliability, the first thing you want to do is check the history of the cars you are looking at, so turn to vehicle history reports, service records, and check the relevant register in your state or territory to ensure the car hasn’t been written off in the past.

Inspecting the Vehicle

Begin with a walk-around to look for signs of damage, rust, or mismatched paint that might indicate previous repairs. Check the condition of the tyres to ensure they have sufficient tread depth and that there are no signs of uneven wear, which could signal alignment issues or suspension problems. While you’re at it, make sure you also inspect the lights, windows, and mirrors to ensure they are functional and free from cracks or any other damage.

Lift the bonnet and examine the engine bay for any signs of leaks, corrosion, or worn belts and hoses. The oil, coolant, and transmission fluid should be at appropriate levels and appear clean. Dirty or low fluids should prove cause for concern, as it may signal a neglectful owner.

There is only so much that an untrained individual can look for when inspecting under the bonnet, so ask a trusted mechanic or third-party inspection service to perform a more detailed inspection. These individuals may be able to identify potential issues that might not be apparent during your inspection and test drive.

Inside the vehicle, make sure that key features like air conditioning, heating, infotainment system, power windows and so forth are all in working order. If you fail to pick up any problems at this stage, it could lead to complications later on, and a big bill.

Driving the Vehicle

Arguably the most telling aspect of evaluating a second-hand car is the test drive. Pay attention to how the car starts, accelerates, and handles. The engine should start easily and run smoothly without unusual noises. Check the brakes for responsiveness and listen for any squeaking or grinding sounds, which can indicate worn brake pads or rotors. Test the steering for smoothness and ensure there are no vibrations or pulling to one side.

Is it the Right Car for You?

While you can never be certain that you’re not acquiring a lemon, you can form some idea as to the likely reliability of a second-hand vehicle by completing diligent research, inspecting the vehicle, and driving the car as part of a test drive.

It’s wise to follow these steps to ensure that you make an informed decision, reducing the risk of purchasing a used car that turns out to be a lemon.