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Car buying tips and advice

"Buying a car not a Lemon"

Buying a new car is a mine field

Things to look out for when buying a car privately.

When buying a new car you will often see a large number of unsuitable cars that you would never have considered. This is often down to poor planning and preparation. When you telephone the first task is to find out if it is a dealer trading from home. Torquecars recommend that you haggle over the phone before you see the car - most people are after a sale and will lower their price if it is the only way to get you to see it. This also applies when buying from a dealer

Rough cars tend to have rough owners - so look at the seller as well as the car.

Most back street dealers buy cars with minor accident damage and spend the minimal amount of money on parts and make the car look good. Often major chassis damage is ignored with new panels fitted to cover the damage. The back street dealer will often have a few cars for sale so when you ring say "I'm calling about the car" - a genuine private sale will know which car you are talking about but the dealer will need to identify the car and will ask "which car, the Audi?" or ask "where did you see the ad". Remember the type of person you buy from is an indication of the type of car - rough cars have rough owners.

Next rule is never inspect a car in the wet - you will miss so many imperfections in the bodywork if it is wet! Also look at the seams in the car - gaps should be the same at the top of a panel as they are at the bottom. Uneven gaps between panels or crooked bonnet and small dents in the roof edges can all suggest accident damage and a substandard repair. The paint should also match on all of the panels. Beware of cars with body-kits and wacky paint jobs - ask to see a receipt for the work and only buy the car if it was done by a reputable body shop - an easy way to hide damage is to respray the whole car. Even if the car is in its original colour look out for signs of over-spray on plastic particularly around the lights, mirrors and at the edges of the engine bay.

Next step is to start the engine - first feel the exhaust and make sure it has not been warmed up - many problems are evident on cold engines and people will pre warm them so they start easily and run smoothly. When the engine has started the temp gauge should move into the operating range quite quickly - while you wait for this to happen open the bonnet and listen for rattles at the top of the engine indicating worn valves, tappets or cam problems. Get a friend to rev the engine and look out for blue smoke - oil burning - black smoke a bad sign especially on a turbo model

Test drive - take the car for a good few miles. We at Torquecars recommend that you have adequate insurance cover for this, many policies will cover you on a Third Party only basis but you need to check that this is sufficient and you could find you have to pay the cost of repairs yourself.

When driving the car check it does not pull to one side when braking or acceleration - choose a road with no camber for this test. Move up through the gears and move down then skip a gear 1st to 3rd to 5th down again then 2nd to 4th and down again. This should highlight any gear change issues. Being in too high a gear will tell you about the condition of the engine - if it judders and splutters there could be a problem but a good engine will steadily increase speed until the correct speed is attained so start off in 3rd or 4th if the car has sufficient torque. After the test drive look under the car for oil leaks and check the engine over for signs of recent leaks - it may have been cleaned up but a good test drive will allow the leak to surface again. Torquecars would recommend that you test drive a car for at least 15 minutes to allow time to get fully used to a new car.

Check all paper work thoroughly - ring the previous owner and ask them about the car. If the sellers name is not shown as the current owner find out why? Is it his car to sell? Run an outstanding finance check and see if the car has been listed as an accident damaged write off by an insurer. Also avoid buying a car which has only been owned for a couple of months or had a large number of recent registered keepers and do not touch a car that has not been serviced in the last year. These questions should be asked over the phone at the beginning and will save you a lot of wasted time. Also ask about the reason they are selling - you can tell from their reply if they are genuine or not.

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