The day has come, and you have saved enough capital that you are opting to buy a car for yourself. Keeping the realities in mind, now your cash is in the hands of car dealers, and chances are you are going to end up buying a car that is a dealer’s rental car, but now he is selling it through a fancy ad in the newspaper or the popular ad websites with photos taken in his house or at a friend’s place. In this article, I will try to explain as much as possible about how the market works for used cars in Pakistan.
So let’s start like this; dress up casually and ditch your valima suit as you will be doing a bunch of somersaults while checking out the car. Also, keep in mind, that while on a car hunt you should be a maximum of 2 persons, do not take the whole ‘baraat’ to the seller, like all your painter and your mechanic buddies, your three brothers and few cousins, a tantrum-throwing toddler, etc. If you have a good friend who is not jealous of your car hunt and has some experience of checking the cars out for you, then take him along as a priority. I think a deal of nice dinner or lunch will do the trick.
This guide is for you if you are new to this important stage of your life where you will be considered a superhero among your friends and family for buying a car cheaper than its market worth and a loser if it’s the other way round. My advice does not even disclose the price you paid for the car because we Pakistanis are experts in prices, and everyone has a list of car prices in their pockets.
Finalize the Type, Model, and Make of the Car
It is better to stick to one single model/type of car while doing the research, do not try to put multiple types of vehicles that fall into your budget because that will cause more confusion, and you may end up buying a newer model of scrap metal. Think rationally and stick to one model that not only pleases you but also serves the purpose of the purchase of the car.
Do not go for models that are obsolete, unique, or have a history of parts unavailability. Our local workshop culture is that the “ustaad” will use your car as a lab rat for their “Chota” to learn and experiment on. And you do not want a Frankenstein monster (Peugeot with Khyber headlamps or Charade with Vitz engine) as your first car. You need something trouble-free and reliable.
Disregard the New(EST) Model Disease
A general consensus of the market is that a particular year’s perfect car cannot be more expensive than the bar set by the dealers. But it is the other way round if the dealer has parked himself a mint condition car. Anyway, you have the option to buy a 2014 mint car and a 2016 same-shape car, poorly treated by the owner from day one. Be rational while taking a decision, look for signs of wear and tear, and do not trust the odometer if it’s around 80,000 km because every used car in Pakistan is at 80,000 km. A good-condition car will always be a little more expensive than its counterparts, and it will give you double the service in the long run. So, save your time and effort, avoid getting a car cheaper, and reaffirm to yourself that you will get factory-standard repairs on it from footpath mechanics. That will waste a lot of money and not add to the value of the car. A highway-driven car can be more in mileage but will be in good condition compared to cars driven within cities.
Parking Area of the Car
Some owners neglect their cars, while some vehicles are taken care of, take notice of small things like where the vehicle is parked and whether is it sunbaked enough to have its paint flaked off in a few years after your purchase. Look for signs of oil stains on the floor, a coolant leakage, or a gearbox leakage. If you see any, keep calm, continue checking the car out, look around and see for good quality car shampoos lying around; believe the car is pampered enough if you see any. If you are at a dealer, then every other car has gone through a desi-style paint-cutting job, and it will be shiny and new to the eyes. Be careful, do not buy a car having its lacquer thinned out to almost nothing, permanently.
Ask for maintenance records of the car. Some people are particular about it, and it’s a good thing if someone shares this information with you. If a 3S dealership has treated it, then get the record checked from the dealers directly.
Consult an Expert Mechanic
This could be very important, take a mechanic whom you trust and who is an expert in his field. For example, if you are buying a car with a Carburetor engine, take the mechanic of that engine, and if you are purchasing a car with an EFI engine, take the expert of that engine. The person would give you a proper suggestion, which would help you in making a proper decision. Furthermore, it is always to get a second opinion, and what is better than taking from an expert?
Usage checks (Most Important Part of this guide)
See the car from a little distance and compare it with the same type of new car. Any irregularities and misalignment of body panels require further inspection, and anybody with an eye for detail can check it. It is not something that is reserved for your body shop experts only. You can do it too. It’s just that we do not try hard enough. Also, check all the car’s footboards from top to bottom and front to back; the wear and tear of paint will tell you a lot about the environment in which the previous owner used the car. Avoid a car with a misaligned front and rear because it will be hard to get rid of afterward. If you get a slight hint of repair done, then take your friendly neighborhood panel beater along for further assessment or leave the car.
You can tell a lot about a car by having a closer look at its gear knob. Is it scratched and scruffy or polished? If it’s shiny, then the chances are that the car has remained on the road a lot. Although it is different for automatic cars cause the wear and tear is less in automatic vehicles.
If the foot pedals show worn-out rubber on the clutch pedal and brake, or if you can feel the play in the pedal’s levers while depressing, this can also hint at the millage, the car has covered in its time.
Steering Stalks and Switches
If the white lettering on them is almost washed out and polished to perfection, then the car has done at least 300,000 km.
A hanging roof liner can be expensive to repair and a common cause for cars being rolled over or parked in the heat of the sun for too long.
Decaying door panels or having accessories worn out or damaged can be a sure sign of lousy repair jobs done behind them; be very careful. Service station washes can also cause severe damage to door panels.
A perfectly aligned window will move up and down smoothly no matter how dusty it is. If it doesn’t, look for internal damage to the door frame.
Cars used on rentals usually have smoked headlights as a default because of their continuous usage at night. It’s your decision to decide further. Sometimes long-driven cars have blacked-out headlights due to constant use at night but are perfect in other ways.
Check the fender liners, weather shield, and trim on doors. Minor cracks are common and not a problem, but major chunks wearing out, especially around the main screens, are signs of a poorly kept car.
While starting the car, observe the CEL (check engine light) lighting up at the ACC ON position and going out after the engine is on. If not, then something is fishy, and the owner has removed the CEL lamp. Some sharp sellers also combine the CEL with OIL light in parallel, observing the timings of them going off.
Check the engine by listening to any abnormal sounds. Sounds of belts slipping are usually common and a cheap repair. Noises like thudding, clanking and fine knocks are expensive on the pocket. Subtle clicks are acceptable, and you can repair them easily. Open the radiator cap if the vehicle is cold and see if the coolant is there; if not, keep in mind the coolant and radiator flush cost. Avoid cars having loose wiring in the engine bay. A car is not reliable if its wiring is not right. Also, do not buy cars having alterations with incorrect alterations. Or crazy engine swaps like Charade having a Vitz engine.
Always check the condition of seats because in many cases the seller covers them with an extra cloth to hide their actual condition. Remove those covers, check it and if it is without covers, always check the sides of the seats because these are the areas mostly ignored. Furthermore, check the sliders of the front seats, whether they slide properly or not. Also, check the back sport whether it is lost or not. The seats are fundamental for your travel, especially the driving seat. Henceforth make sure they are in good condition.
For many of us, owning our own car brings joy and happiness. It’s an event when you bring your first vehicle, new or used, to your house and show it to your friends and family. When we pay our hard-earned money, we expect the best bang for our buck; no one likes a lemon. We expect sellers to be honest and truthful, but we share the responsibility to be as cautious as possible when buying our first car. It is not just about the money you are spending but also about your and your family’s safety. A weak or faulty automobile can be a threat and can cause irreversible harm to you or your family. Be cautious and always buy smart.