Buyer beware: Used vehicle buying tips

By Evan Spence 5 Min Read

Buying a used four-wheel drive can be a horrendous experience. Here are our top five ways to get into the right used 4×4 sooner, without buying a lemon


Do your research

Sure, that Daewoo Korando (for example) you saw online might appeal to you because it has low mileage and a neat interior. But is it really the right 4X4 for your needs? Buying the wrong vehicle is costly. Not only will it waste time, but it’s almost a given that you will lose money when it comes time to sell in a rush (ask me how I know).

So, do you want an automatic gearbox and a diesel engine or is petrol power for you? Is your life unfulfilled without a gloss yellow paint job and leather seats? Or is vinyl flooring and manual window winders your idea of engineering nirvana? Have you even asked yourself these questions? Make life easier – narrow your search down, and get out on the tracks sooner in the perfect 4X4.

Look for accessories

Good quality 4X4 accessories aren’t cheap. But when buying or selling a 4X4 they really don’t play a big part in the final sale price. If you are planning on adding accessories such as a bull bar, diff locks, a winch or snorkel for example, look around for a model with the gear already fitted.

Think about it this way – if you found your dream truck but it had a blown engine, it would in many cases be cheaper to rebuild the engine than buy those accessories new. And then you have a built 4X4 with a new engine! Do your sums before signing on the dotted line. And if you do receive quotes for work (mechanical or accessory fitting), ensure to have the price confirmed and on paper before going ahead to avoid nasty surprises.


Private or dealer?

This is a big call. I’m going to say buying private is my preferred method when it comes to shopping used. You get a feel for the vehicle and its history from the previous owner, usually in the first few minutes. They can give you a tour of the vehicle. As well as explain who performed the work if any accessories have been fitted or major repairs made.

A dealer won’t have this information. And will only know how much they paid versus how much profit they need to make. Dealership pre-delivery departments are renown for ‘bog-and-flog’ tactics too. Making it hard to ascertain the genuine overall condition of a 4X4 from beneath thick black under-body spray, cut back paintwork and a greasy sales pitch about extended warranties.

Service history

Correct servicing is the most important aspect of reliable vehicle ownership. Not only just meeting service intervals, but also ensuring the right grades of oils and genuine parts (or at least reputable parts) have been utilised too. There is nothing more frustrating than having a cheap part fail on the tracks. Which could have been avoided with correct servicing.

Grill the seller over every detail of the vehicle’s past life. Ask to see receipts, and even go as far as to speak with the mechanic who has done the work to verify the owner’s claims. If you put the effort in at this stage, you should be paid back with years of affordable and reliable motoring.

Condition condition condition

It’s a 4X4 after all. If you’re reading this article it means you are going to be using the thing off-road. But the idea is to buy the neatest example you can afford. A few scratches on the paint isn’t anything to worry about, if anything bush pinstripes serve as a bargaining tool to negotiate the price down.

If you see more than slight surface rust however, the best call is to usually walk away… actually, make that run. There is nothing worse than spending time and money on a vehicle, only to realise the body is too far riddled with metal cancer to proceed. Take your time, and think with your head not heart. When you see the right vehicle, you will know it.

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