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Second-Hand Vehicles: How Safe Are You?

Second-Hand Vehicles: How Safe Are You?

Buying a used car can often be one of the smartest buying decisions. Let’s be honest, the new car smell is awesome but it’s not always worth the thousands of dollars - cars, new or used, depreciates the minute it’s driven off the lot. There are many things to consider when shopping for a used car so you don't end up with a dud car or pricey repairs and headaches. Luckily, we have Margot from the NRMA Insurance in Australia share a few tips on finding the right used ride.  


There are many reasons for buying a second-hand vehicle—from a better price to wanting something a new driver can knock about. However, many people believe that buying a used car isn't safe and that they would be much better off with something new.

The truth is, each case is different and needs weighing upon its merits.

For instance, a vehicle manufactured before 1998 won't have the same safety features as one that came off the production line this year. However, it can be a lot easier to repair and maintain a vehicle that doesn't have a fancy, modern computer system under the hood. It's all about looking for the right deal and getting the best car you can with your available budget.

So, the short answer to the question of safety is that you are as safe as you could be in a new car—if you make a smart purchase.

Reasons For Buying A Second-Hand Car

Buying a used vehicle isn't always about getting a good deal or what looks like a good deal. There are some valid investment reasons for going second-hand.

A brand-new car depreciates almost the moment it's driven off the showroom floor—the more expensive the vehicle, the quicker and more significant that initial depreciation will be. For example, buying a sports car that is a year old can save you a lot of money and still get you an excellent, sought-after vehicle.

Parents will often look at the second-hand market to get a car for their kids learning to drive. New drivers will also look to go used when buying their first car.

Running in a new vehicle is tricky and is best left to someone more experienced. It's less traumatic (and expensive) if you end up in a minor fender bender in a second-hand car instead of one straight off the showroom floor. Insurance on a second-hand vehicle is also often a lot cheaper, making the overall expense a lot less.

Of course, there's also the vintage car market. You may want to go used because you dream of driving a classic car or want to relive your youth in a similar vehicle to the one you learned to drive in. There's nothing quite like the feeling of driving an older but well-maintained car to bring back certain memories.

How To Avoid Buying A Dud Second-Hand Car

Whatever your reason for going the second-hand car route, you need to make sure that you do your due diligence before making that purchase.

Here are some steps you should follow:

1. Do Your Research Online First

Almost all dealerships will have the option to search for and view their vehicle holdings online. You can see what they have in stock, ask for the specific history of those cars, and then do your research on the vehicles. Make sure that you look at reviews for when the vehicle was new and compare the features available. You want to get as good an idea about how actual owners feel about the car and how well experts think it has aged as possible.

Checking the details out online will also allow you to easily compare prices for similar makes and models from other dealerships. Instead of driving around from place to place and spending time talking to the dealer, you can make a shortlist of cars you're interested in from the comfort of your own home.

2. Make Sure You Take That Test Drive

Once you have your shortlist, it's time to go and see the actual vehicles. For some reason, people buying in the second-hand market are far less likely to go for a test drive than those buying new cars. It's just as important to take a close look at the vehicle and see if you like the feel of it while driving, regardless of whether the car is new or used. When it comes to the car's condition, going for a test drive and examining the vehicle is even more important when going second-hand.

3. Get A Mechanic You Trust To Look At The Vehicle

Speaking of inspection, you need to get an expert to evaluate the vehicle before you purchase it. Paying a mechanic you trust to go through the car before you finalize the deal can save you a lot of trouble and money down the line. Even if you're dealing with a reputable dealership, get a third-party expert to look the car over to ensure it's in as good a condition as advertised.

We have also had car owners tell us they don't go car shopping without an OBDII diagnostic tool, like the ThinkDiag. While the ThinkDiag is subscription-based, it gives you access to enhanced diagnostics for vehicles from the specific vehicle brand.

For instance, if you own a Lexus, you can purchase the Toyota/Lexus manufacturer subscription. The ThinkDiag will become a personalized OBD-II diagnostic scanner that looks for generic faults and other abnormalities that Toyota and Lexus scan for in their vehicles.

Alternatively, you can purchase additional subscriptions if you own or are shopping for various car brands - subscriptions are on an annual basis, and it more affordable than you'd think.

4. Insist On A Full Vehicle History

By law, a seller has to disclose all work done on a vehicle, as well as if it's been in any accidents and the car's service history. When you have the documentation in front of you, go through it carefully to ensure that you are happy the vehicle has been properly cared for.

If you are in doubt about any of the claims on the history, explore further. You're well within your rights to ask questions of the seller and previous owner(s). You are also well within your rights to request proof of any work done or parts that were replaced.

5. Check With Your Insurance Company

One good way to see if your potential purchase is a safe bet is to check the cover your preferred car insurer offers. If they're willing to cover you fully, then you can pretty much rest assured that your vehicle is a good one.

These are red flags if they have questions about how structurally sound the car is, its history, and any damage it may have incurred. It's a better idea to move on and find another vehicle.

The Last Word

A safe car is a car you've done your research on. Every second-hand vehicle has its pros and cons, and it's up to you to check that the car you're buying is a good investment. Driving with confidence starts with you. When you're purchasing a second-hand car, knowledge is power.

Once you've made your purchase, you can always add additional safety features. A dashcam is a great place to start!


A word from BlackboxMyCar

Thank you Margot, for sharing so many valuable tips with us and our readers. You can get the most bang for your buck with a used car, but it also comes with wear and tear. It's important to avoid making these costly mistakes when you're in the market for a second-hand car.

Looking for a good dash cam for your car? Talk to us - we have a huge selection that caters to all needs and budgets.

Got tips you want to share with the BlackboxMyCar community? Sign up to become a Safety Scout!

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