General Tips On Buying a Vehicle

Buying a car is not only a serious financial commitment, you also want a vehicle that is safe, reliable, has the features you want and fulfils the needs of you and your family. See below for our tips on selecting a vehicle, both new and used.

Choose at least 3 different types of makes or models with the features you like and require. This provides a good contrast to ensure you get a vehicle that exactly meets your requirements.

Try or to locate each make and model with the features you want. While it’s not possible to inspect every
vehicle listed, it does give you a good starting point if considering purchasing elsewhere.

Make sure to fully understand the differences between each model such as GL, GLX GLS. What does one have the other doesn’t and do you need the extra features? Usually, the more features it has the more you will pay.

Know how much each make/model on average is selling for, keeping in mind what features each vehicle has and the distance it has travelled.

  • If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
  • Just because you may have travelled a long way to inspect the vehicle and taken time out of some else’s day does not mean you are obliged to buy the vehicle.
  • Do not fall in love at first site
  • Are you able to provide a service history either by means of previous invoices or a service logbook?
  • Has the vehicle been in any recent accidents?
  • Is there finance owing on the vehicle? Visit for further details. A small fee is applicable for a report however this could save you a lot of heartache.
  • Have there been any recent major mechanical repairs?
  • Confirm the vehicle has been regularly serviced by a licensed mechanic. If the logbook has not been stamped with details of a licensed mechanic it may have been falsely filled out by an unauthorised person.
  • Most newer vehicle require servicing every 15,000klms or 12 months
    (whichever occurs first) While other vehicles (mainly older types) require servicing every 6 months or 10,000klms.
  • A poor service history on a lower kilometer vehicle can potentially have more problems than the same vehicle with higher kilometers and an excellent service history.
  • Timing belts are fitted to some vehicles and require replacement at varying intervals for different makes and models. It is important to know if the vehicle you are interested in has a timing belt and whether it has previously been replaced or will require future replacement. Replacement of a timing belt can be expensive and can cause major engine damage if a failure occurs.
  • On average a vehicle will travel approximately 10,000 to 15,000klms per year.
  • Sometimes a vehicle with higher kilometers may be worth inspecting. Yes, it will decrease the vehicles value and could be requiring more frequent maintenance however a well-maintained vehicle with a good service history can still be a very reliable and safe vehicle.
  • A vehicle with lower kilometers does not necessarily mean it is a better vehicle. In fact, quite often, a vehicle of the same age which has travelled more kilometers and has been well maintained can be the better cheaper option.

Inspecting and Test Driving the Vehicle

We highly recommend organising a time to have us carry-out a thorough mechanical inspection prior to purchasing any vehicle however here is a quick list of checks that may help identify problems requiring repairs or further attention.

1. Check for panel damage and check panel, bonnet, boot & door alignment

  • Misalignment of panels, bonnet or doors is a good indicator that the vehicle has been in an accident.

2. Check condition of the tyres and look for any damage to the side wall or rims.

  • If there is less than 1.5mm on any part of the tread the tyre will need to be replaced.

3. Check all the lights for damage and cracks in the lenses.

4. Check for rust around the windows, bottoms of doors and panels.

  • Open and close all windows at every door.
  • Open and close all doors and check operation of locks and central locking.
  • Check condition and operation of all seats and seatbelts. The seat belts should retract fully back and engage/release easily in the buckles.
  • No fraying should be present on any part of the belt.
  • Confirm operation of all switches and controls for the audio, climate control and any other feature the vehicle may have.
  • Start the engine paying attention to how long it takes to start and making sure there are no unusual sounds.
  • It’s also a good to have someone stand at the rear of the vehicle and note any type of smoke that comes out the exhaust when first starting.
  • Make sure no warning lights remain on after the engine has started.
  • Any lights remaining on could indicate an electrical or engine fault and will require further testing.
  • Warm the engine up and make sure it idles smoothly and again listen for any unusual engine noises and check for any smoke coming out the exhaust.

1. Look for any signs of fluid loss around the cooling system components
and engine components.
2. Check the engine oil level and colour.

  • Any milky discolouration on the dipstick could be an indication
    of significant engine problems. If no oil is registering on the
    dipstick this may also be an indication of engine problems
    requiring further inspection.

3. Check the cooling system level and coolant colour. Warning: We do not recommend removing the cooling system cap if the engine is hot as the system may be under pressure and could lead to serious injury to yourself and/or anyone nearby.

  • Coolant colour will vary from make and model however if there is any milky discolouration of the coolant this could be an indication of major engine problems. If the colour appears rusty this can be an indicator of a poor service history or if it appears very clear this can indicate ongoing cooling system problems such as a leak that is being topped up with plain water.

4. Make sure everything looks secure and in place.

5. Check around the firewall and seams of guards etc for any signs of rust.

6. Make sure the bonnet closes easily and fully.

7. Check for signs of rodents.

  • Some indications you might find are, vegetation in the engine bay, rat droppings, or areas of wiring, plastic and rubber components that have been chewed.
  • Exposed wiring could lead to engine electrical faults and in a worse case scenario a fire.

1. Pay close attention to any unusual noises such as whirring/humming from the wheels, grinding or squealing when applying the brakes, squeaks or knocks from the suspension or whines from the transmission.

2. Make sure the transmission changes gears smoothly. This is applicable to both manual and automatic transmissions.

3. If the vehicle is a manual make sure the clutch engages around the midpoint of pedal travel.

  • A low engagement point (clutch engages when the pedal is very low to the floor) can be an indicator of a faulty hydraulic or mechanical component associated with the clutch.
  • A very high engagement point (clutch engages when the pedal is almost fully up) can be an indicator of worn out clutch components.

4. If the vehicle is equipped with cruise control ensure it functions normally.

5. Drive the vehicle for at least 15 minutes as sometimes noises and problems may not be evident until everything has warmed up or subjected to certain conditions.
6. Make sure no warning lights come on or stay on during the test drive.

Used car dealers sell vehicles at a higher cost due to operational overheads and preparation of vehicles for sale. If a vehicle has travelled less than 160,00klms and is no more than 10 years old they are obliged by law to provide a 3 month/5,000klm statutory warranty. Click here for further details. Some used car dealers will sell warranties with their vehicles however we suggest to closely read and understand the terms and conditions as you may be obliged to return the vehicle to the selling agent to maintain the warranty.

  • We recommend having the vehicle re- inspected prior to the end of the statutory warranty period to identify any faults that may need repair.

You will most likely be able to purchase a vehicle cheaper buying privately however it requires the most amount of caution. Once money has been exchanged there is no warranty therefore all faults with the vehicle become a problem at your expense.

At JM Auto we are able to carry-out pre-purchase inspections of all vehicles and can provide you with a comprehensive mechanical report and diagnostic scan report.