Saturday, February 21, 2015

10 Things to Check When Buying a Second Hand Car

Before, we've blogged about basic things to check when buying a second hand car. Today, we are going to give you more tips and things to be aware of to make sure you are not going to regret your purchase afterwards. As a summary on our other post, basic things to check are:
-If the car was flooded
-Registrations papers
-Cross checking papers with the car dealer where it was bought
-Reason for selling
-Physical appearance
-Test drive

People buy second hand cars for various reasons and it doesn't mean they can't afford a brand new one. Some just do not want the feeling that the car they purchased will depreciate by as much as 20-30% upon leaving the car dealership. After hanging out with someone who knows a lot about cars and buying second hand vehicles, I decided to share what I've learned from him so that more people can benefit from it. Since due diligence is a big factor in anything pre-owned, here are 10 more things you need to check when buying a second hand car.

1) Check the plate number
I don't mean check the plate number with LTO or HPG, that's basic. Check the plate number for signs of damage. If the vehicle had been in an accident or collision, it would be impossible to return the plate number to its original state.
(Tip: To check with LTO, a quick way to check plate numbers is to text "LTO_Vehicle_Plate Number" to 2600. Sample: "LTO Vehicle ABC123")
Note: this is not enough. You should also go to Camp Crame and check with HPG.

2) Is the plate a duplicate
Another sign to check is if the plate number has a small letter "D" in the middle. This means that the plate is a duplicate already. Either the original plate was stolen or badly damaged and whatever the reason is, you may have a harder time knowing it. If you request a new plate from LTO, they will give you a plate with letter "D" already because you cannot have a plain original plate apart from your first one.

On a related note, the required changing of plates from old to the new 2014 design will make it even more difficult to trace because you wouldn't know if it was the original or duplicate plate already. All signs of damage on the plate will be harder to see, unless the new format plate would have damage on it. That will mean that the damage is just recent.

3) Check the paint
Over the years, I've learned how to look at car paint and see if it's the original paint or not. One obvious sign that the car or a part of it was already repainted if the paint doesn't match with other parts of the car. Check also if the shine in one part is more or less same with other parts. You can do that by standing in front of the paint you are checking and seeing your reflection. Repainted parts often are more dull compared to the shiny original paint.

4) Knock on the body
This is done to check if there are already repairs done to the car. Usually, the term they use is "lata". It just means that the body is still in original state and no damage or repairs has been done to it. You can also ask the seller if the car is "lata pa". If yes, they will usually say, "lata pa yan".

5) Remove the seat
The back seat can usually be removed easily. Remove it and turn it over so you can look for signs if it has been flooded. Although it can easily be cleaned, there will still be signs left if it has been flooded.

6) Open the compartments
There will be glove compartments and other small storage spaces like the middle console. Open it and remove the things inside. Next, check the screws for damage. Usually, this is a sign that the car has been partially disassembled to make way for detailing or cleaning the carpet after a flood. What to look for in the screw? Try imagining a screw that hasn't been unscrewed yet. Perfect condition. Now imagine it being unscrewed, sometimes with force. You can see chips on some side and scratches on the top screw itself. Ask why it was unscrewed.

7) Nooks and crannies
More often than not, if the car is in original state and stock, there should be no damage done on the sides and corner of the interior of the car. For example, if the aftermarket car accessory shop you went to can't remove your dashboard panel the right way, they will force it open using a screw driver. You will see permanent damage on the dashboards nooks and crannies. This is a sign that it has been opened. Either to repair something major or maybe just install aftermarket accessories. Point it out to the owner and ask why. They will usually be caught by surprise and tell you the real reason behind.

In general
8) Know the car you are buying very well
Study and research before purchasing a car. Case in point, I was interested before in a 2012 Honda Civic (Also referred to as Civic FB). Why 2012? Because that was the year that Honda Civics are Japan CBU (completely built units). They are made in Japan. The reason was, during that year, the Thailand plant was still flooded and Honda Philippines had no choice but to source their units from Japan. Good point is, Japan units are much more durable than Thailand units based on historical performance aka experience. Bad point is, they are more expensive (which makes me think of the cliche, "you get what you pay for"). Anyway, at first, I had a hard time looking for signs on how to distinguish if it was a Japan unit or Thailand unit. After looking at several ads online, I now know how to distinguish them. I'll make a separate post for the Civic but for the 2012 CRV, here's how:

9) Repossessed second hand cars
If you are not good in checking cars, stay away from repossessed units. If you've not heard of horror stories, do some search on Google and read the horror stories from the previous owner putting sand on the engine to putting whatever substance in the fuel tank. You really wouldn't now what happened before they surrender the unit. A precaution you can do (but still no assurance) is to talk to the previous owner. There are two ways banks and financing companies repossess cars. One is by force and another one is on free will. In the first scenario, the company getting the car back will take it by force or surprise you without warning. The advantage in that as a buyer would be, he wouldn't have enough time to sabotage the car. The disadvantage is, you will most probably not get the second key if he were outside,say, in a mall.

In the second scenario which is surrendered, the person may or may not sabotage the car. Putting sand in the engine can still give you some 50-100kms minimum before you will see signs. I've seen some cars sabotaged physically like, destroyed radio and other features like reverse camera functions and even spilling soda inside compartments. Those might be not as extreme yet. On the positive side, if the previous owner is good, you will have both set of keys and a car well taken care of.

In search of that 2012 Civic, I've realised that the car I was looking at was flooded. Number one sign is that the EPS (electronic power steering) is not working and has a warning light on in the dashboard. This is usually one of the first things on modern cars that get affected when a car is flooded. Although repairable, the financing company I went to didn't have it repaired to save money, which is good for buyers because they can assess it as is and the seller won't be able to hide it. An easy one would be the smell. It won't go off easily. Ask a technician/mechanic to remove some parts of the car to make sure if you suspect the car was flooded. Easy panels to remove are interior door panels, aircon filters inside or any place you think sand and mud can stay after the flooding.

10) 'Buy and Sell' Sellers
We've never bought one before until a few years back. It was a friend of a friend. Turns out that the car was taken out of the dealership and the original buyer never paid the monthly amortization. It was confiscated by HPG. Car no more. Lesson number 1, a friend of a friend is not a good contact. It must be either a direct friend or recommended by someone you really trust. You'd be surprised to know that people would really burn bridges just for money.

In car lots, they usually display the year and mileage. Double check the year of the car by looking at the actual OR CR. Start the car and check the actual mileage. Buy and Sell stores have 1 goal in mind. To sell. So make sure that you do not believe in everything that they say unless you saw it with your own eyes. Buying from Buy and Sell car lots might be easier than buying a repossessed unit but make sure you do your due diligence as well and not get very excited.

Imagefrom OLX.Ph
I've also noticed a difference between a car lot selling second hand cars and repossessed cars. Second hand car lots have cleaner cars while dusty un-maintained cars are usually repossessed, unless already bought by someone to be sold as second hand.

I'm sure there are a lot more ways to check and maybe I'll do that in another post. Looking for pre-owned cars to buy is fun at the same time risky. Make sure you understand the risks first as you'll end up spending more if you don't do your part well. Bring a trusted mechanic when looking at a car. Go to Camp Crame and check on everything before buying it. Double check with LTO. Go to the car dealer and see if all is well with the previous buyer. It may sound a lot of work but saving money involves effort. Anyway, you'll be spending a lot of effort as well when you buy the wrong car. Might as well make an effort before buying than after buying it, right? When you make sure everything is okay, in the end, it will be all worth it.

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