Tips for buying a car – part 2

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

1: Buy bland

Annoyingly, the less features your car boasts, the less there is to go wrong. Reliability can absolutely be found within many of the high end brands, but to truly minimise your overall operation costs it’s the cars most popular with fleets (not necessarily ex-fleet vehicles, just cars of that ilk) that will exhibit cheapest buying. The proliferation of the market thanks to ex-fleet stock means finding a bargain should be easy and you often find a newer, safer vehicle than you might expect. Think Ford Mondeo, Toyota Aurion/Camry/Corolla/Rav4 or Hyundai Sonata.

2: Service history

Good upkeep of any car, regardless of brand, will extend its life in the used market. New Zealand new vehicles are typically the easiest to source service history for and it can be confirmed with the vehicle’s service agents in person.

3: Vehicle inspection

This is a must. Even if you don’t opt for a professional inspection service a good mechanic should cast an eye over the car. A good inspection service can alert you to poorly repaired accident damage, any obvious mechanical faults or service concerns, cooling system checks, internal water leaks, loose or broken trim and in some cases (dependent on vehicle) engine compression which is an indication of internal engine wear.

4: Mileage checks

Speedo tampering has reduced, but does still happen. Reputiple dealers represent less of a risk by offering certified mileage vehicles, these have been checked before entering the country to confirm the odometer is displaying accurately. Vehicles sold new in New Zealand should also have the mileage is recorded from new with each WoF so these are even easier to confirm.

5: Investigate ownership history

If there’s an opportunity to sight past ownership paperwork, look at how many people have owned the vehicle, the mileage travelled and time of each ownership period. This won’t tell you anything conclusive about the car, but it’s another piece in the puzzle to verifying it’s previous life. Numerous, short ownership periods may indicate past owners have disliked the vehicle – possibly for mechanical reasons. This paperwork will also confirm if the vehicle was owned by a company in the past.

6: Ask the service agents

No car or brand is perfect. They all have issues, the people who see these most often are the factory service agents. A quick visit to chat with an experience service advisor or technician will illuminate areas of concern with that particular model. How to identify possible problems and give you an idea of repair costs.

7: Online research

Be careful with researching mechanical reliability online. Not every market around the world will have the same issues. Vehicles built for New Zealand may have been sourced from a different production facility than those destined for Europe, engine specifications may differ and there are also just a lot of ill-informed opinions online. Really common global problems with particular models should become clear fairly quickly, but make sure the information is relevant to you.

8: Ex-fleet cars

Ex-fleet cars often scare people away due to the higher mileages they often demonstrate. This represents a possibility to grab a bargain. During the company ownership fleet or rental vehicles will have been well serviced and modern engineering is capable of withstanding a lot, so don’t be too put off.

9: Facelifts and later versions

A facelift version of a vehicle may look identical but will usually bring with it improved engine, transmission or safety innovations for similar or even the money for its predecessor. Learn when the vehicle you’re interested in was upgraded or replaced and what this added, often this will include common fault rectification and improved reliability. The first generation of an all-new model (where the chassis has been replace over past models) often suffers the worst from problems. Look for later versions or facelifts to take advantage of the revisions.

10: Modified vehicles

If outright reliability is a deal breaker, modified vehicles probably won’t be the best option. Lowering or firming suspension may load up other suspension components like rubber bushings and the additional rigidity isn’t what the vehicle manufacturers have intended, so a raft of wear and tear issues may result long term. Engine or fuel injection system modification also can put stresses on the components the engineers never tested for. You’ve been warned.

Read part one of our car buying series – 10 tips for before you buy.