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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Tips for buying a used car

    Looking at buying my first car, found a nice looking one on Trademe cars, going over to have a look tomorrow (With a mate who knows a lot more about cars than I do).

    I'd be interested in getting some tips on what to look for in terms of vehicle condition.

    Also, just as a security thing - are there ways to check that the vehicle is legit? (As in has no money owing on it etc).

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    Large Member plod's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    Car jam will tell if there is money owing on it. Give us the trademe link so we can give opinion.
    samsung, discovering a new galaxy every month

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    Will check car jam.

    Here's the car -

  4. #4
    Senior Member pctek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    In the Wild West

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    Check the trunk of the car to make sure it is still in good condition. It should not show any sign of rust, or water entry due to cracks or holes.

    Check the tires. The tires should be worn evenly. Look at the surface of the tire for feathering (bad alignment). While test driving see if it pulls to either side or not.

    Check exhaust for smoke.

    Check the hoses and belts for cracks. The radiator hoses should not be soft.

    Check all fluids....see if they have any maintenance records (a lot don't though).

    If an auto check transmission fluid - should nice and pink.

    Check when cambelt done last - if they can't prove it and it's around due or they say it is done, walk away.

    Carjam, other than anything owing on it, will tell you name of current owner and also check mileage - does it match what the car says? Any suspect jumps in readings?

    test drive - check clutch, transmission, brakes, steering. Do a hard turn to check power steering belts etc.
    Listen for any noises and note any vibrations etc.
    Some of them won't be noticeable except at high speed so go down the motorway too.

    If recently painted, and old, be suspicious, a magnet helps check for bog.

    Check structure for rust.

    Push on corners to check shocks.

    Make sure all dash bits work and things like heater etc.

    Check seatbelts lock when pulled, no fraying on them.

    Check handbrake holds.

    If unsure, take a mechanical person with you.
    There are also loads of How To checklists on the net, print one and take it so you know how/what to do.

    And finally, stick to the budget and negotiate with owner.

    If it's a good car, don't insult them, bargain fairly.
    Last edited by pctek; 28-09-2015 at 07:17 AM.
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  5. #5
    Unknown Device wratterus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Top of the South

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    I personally wouldn't touch a Subaru of that vintage at all, especially those KMs. They are known for doing head gaskets/heads among other things and are EXPENSIVE to fix, mainly due to the flat 4 design making everything difficult to get at. Also the autos don't tend to do well with a lot of towing (if the previous owner has done that), and they are very expensive too. What are your requirements for a new car?
    Microsoft: "You've got questions. We've got dancing paperclips."

  6. #6
    Senior Member 1101's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    no:1 tip
    budget in another $500 to fix any issues that you will come across in the next 2-6 months

    Just personally, I would avoid getting a high milage automatic .
    Manuals are harder to find, but may be worth the effort finding one on cheaper older cars.

    Check when the cambelt & water pump were last replaced, factor in another $300 -$800 to have those done otherwise

    On carjam, look at the milage history . See it it looks like its been wound back at any stage.
    Last edited by 1101; 28-09-2015 at 09:15 AM.

  7. #7
    amateur expert dugimodo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    Looking at my Dog and Lemon guide (great reference book if you are looking to buy a car but a bit on the alarmist side sometimes) it has this to say about the legacy 1989-1998 - just some highlights it's two pages long They warn against any pre 2003 subaru boxer engine with more than 150,000 km on the clock. Also due to engine design they are expensive to repair.

    How Reliable - Good until about 150,000 km, not great after that
    How safe - Dodgy unless fitted with dual airbags

    what goes wrong.
    Anti-freeze needs to be changed regularly or the motor corrodes
    Rattly engines probably indicate the end is nigh
    EJ20 2L engines have a reputation for premature big end bearing failure
    EJ25 2.5L engines are known for blowing head gaskets
    The Automatic transmission tends to need a complete and expensive overhaul every 100,000km or so

    If you want the full article I could try scanning it and E-mailing - PM me

    My first 3 cars were not great machines, a combination of not much money and wanting something I liked saw to that. Being smart and buying something with a reputation for reliability like a corolla or a civic would be the best financial decision, but failing that take it to a mechanic and get a professional opinion.

    Sometimes the journey is worth it though, my 2nd car was a 1977 Mazda 929 with well over 200,000 miles on the clock. In all honesty is was a bit of a worn out junker but I loved it and still sometimes wish I kept it. I blew up 2 engines and did huge miles in it but it went well and handled well and I grew to love it's quirks. It was almost impossible to steal because there was a trick to starting it It would never fire while cranking, only as you let the key drop back so you had to crank it 2 or 3 times and stop. If you kept cranking it the battery would die in about 30 seconds, it had huge crank amps but no staying power.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Otara, Auckland

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    I have noticed the Suburu's have been piling up in the last 3 or so years at my local wreckers Pick-a-Part, Mangere. I been going there for near 20 years.

    97's are really trade-in's today - unless of course if planning to work/spend on them. I read from an experienced mechanic that at 17 years old, oil leaks occur. Run finger under distributor (or inspect for leaks below it), and check crank seal if you can. Oir look for evidence of leaks around/below it.

    Try drive slowly over a judder bar slowly to hear any creaks, knocks, shudder, etc, to test control arm bushings, ball joint, drop links, etc.

    Check for front end noise when turning slowly to a stop...because

    I had a weird shudder noise on a 92 Nissan Avenir, around the year 2003. Occurred only when R/H turning slowly to a stop. It was a partially seized strut bearing. Hence the strut's coil spring itself was turning - not the bearing - and when car straightened up the spring wound back releasing energy and a horrible sickening shudder...I replaced the strut with spring to fix that.

    Dugimodo: I had a '77 929. The distributor was the same as a '93 L300/Delica van I bought years later. I liked the front of the car- kind of stylish for the time. Also horn would not work if key was on. The auto electrician had to bridge the rubber - cage steering joint with a wire clamped to the steering shaft to work. I did a bit of rust repairs on it. Good runner though...
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  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    Thanks for all the advice guys, some great things to think about! Dugi, I'll flick you a pm, that would be really appreciated!

    What I'm looking for a car is pretty much what everyone wants in the first car - fairly cheap to buy and fairly reliable.

    I'm having a look at it tonight, so I'll be sure to look at all the things listed there, especially in regards to the engine.

  10. #10
    In a 1920s time warp Terry Porritt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Upper Hutt

    Default Re: Tips for buying a used car

    Adding another item to the list: remove oil filler cap and check for white sludge and /or dirty oil.

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