1. Financing too good to be true
Everyone knows, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Used car dealers are middlemen between you and the actual financing body. They have no reason to offer you actually amazing interest rates, and every reason to hide fees and fines behind the veneer of low interest rates.
Only 10% of people actually qualify for super low interest rates; most of us have to pay more. If a used car dealer is telling someone with a not-so-impressive credit rating that they can get an amazing, low-interest deal … there are strings attached. Strings like high deposits, high APR, prepayment penalties, and more.
2. Malfunctioning engine lights
A malfunctioning engine light, despite what some used car dealers will tell you, is a big deal. It’s one of the most straightforward and important diagnostic tools in a car. Light goes on, check problem, deal with problem. It’s meant to be that simple.
If the engine light doesn’t come on when you turn the key in the ignition — or takes unusually long — it can be a sign that the light has been tampered with, or isn’t working. If the light comes on and the seller tries to tell you it’s just faulty, get a mechanic to use an OBD code reader (or get one yourself) and check the code to verify. Sometimes engine lights do come on for minor problems, but you want to make sure it’s a minor problem. Don’t take their word for it.
3. Rattling suspension
If you’ve ever experienced an old car’s rattling suspension, you know how distinct and unmissable the feeling is. If the steering wheel starts shaking when you just turn on the car, you’ve got issues.
Luckily it’s fairly easy to check a car’s suspension. There are two things you can do:
Push down on each fender and quickly let go.The fender should rebound softly once or twice. Any more rebounds than that, and you’ve likely got worn down shock absorbers.
Take the car on a test drive that includes corners. If you feel the car drifting, it’s another sign the suspension is going. Bad suspension can be a major risk for flipping a car on a turn, especially in wet weather or if you’re going just a hair too fast.
4. Worrying exhaust smoke
There are four different types of smoke patterns you can expect to see coming from a car when it’s running:
- A puff of white smoke while starting. This is a sign of condensation, and is no cause for panic. Cars sat in car yards for a while naturally build condensation.
- Black smoke once the car has warmed up. This tells you there’s an excessively rich air-fuel mixture. The likely culprits are a dirty air filter, a defective oxygen sensor, or mass-air meter. Except to shell out for some repairs.
- Blue smoke. Oil is burning. Costly repairs will be needed.
- Billowing white smoke. This is a sign of water logging in combustion chamber. Likely due to a blown head gasket, or damaged cylinder head. Again, expect extensive, costly repairs.
Basically, cloudy white or blue smoke is a sign to look for another car. The cost of repairs will likely outweigh whatever you’re paying for the vehicle. Black, deep grey, or misty white can be signs of need of repair, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from the upkeep of a used vehicle.
Get an accurate car history with a PPSR report
Not sure if the seller is on the level? Get a PPSR report from revscheckreport.com.au. Using nothing more than the car’s rego or VIN, you can find out if the car has ever been written off, stolen, or has money owing on it. You can also find out crucial information such as if the car is part of a recall.
PPSR reports are fast, simple, and affordable. Don’t risk buying a dodgy used car — get your comprehensive car history report today.