It was not so long ago that finding a reliable used car was something of a lottery. The build quality of some affordable marques was questionable to say the least and rust was a real issue. What started off as an attempt to secure some economical family motoring could soon spiral into a nightmare of breakdowns, garage repair bills and unsightly rotting body panels.
It was these unpredictable expenses that made second-hand motoring in the past an unattractive option for many, with lots of drivers opting for the relative security of new cars and manufacturers’ warranties instead. Happily though, that situation has changed dramatically over the last few years and with a bit of care the second-hand motorist can now get a reliable used car that will provide trouble-free motoring for years to come.
The build quality of almost all new cars is now far ahead of where it was just a few years ago. This is reflected in the length of manufacturers’ warranties and can be very much in the favour of used-car buyers. Chevrolet, Toyota and Hyundai, for example, all have a five-year warranty that is transferrable to second owners. The Korean manufacturer Kia has offered a seven-year warranty on all cars bought after January 2010. In the case of Kia then, the canny second-hand buyer can land a bargain by buying a three-year-old car which has already accounted for much of its depreciation. He or she will then have a low-cost vehicle with four years of manufacturer’s warranty left on the car, longer than the three-year warranty offered on a brand new Ford.
You can get a feel for which models are ageing well by checking out the used car reviews online or in car magazines. Remember that running costs matter, so check the cost of spare parts, servicing, insurance and road tax before making a decision. Also ensure that the fuel consumption is within your expectations. The more complex a car is, the more likely it is to go wrong, so be wary of things such as turbos or super chargers which can be expensive to repair or replace. Study the history of the model you are looking at and go for variants with tried and tested engines and running gear.
Once you have selected the model you want, be sure to check out any cars thoroughly before you buy. Buying privately may be cheaper but you have almost no comeback should something go wrong with the car, so seriously consider buying from a dealer and make sure you get a warranty. Check that the body panels fit flush and that doors and the boot open and close smoothly. Problems here could be signs of accident damage. Look for paint overspray around door seals and under the bonnet for the same reason. Make sure the car drives smoothly and check that everything in the cabin works, as electrics are often excluded from warranties. With these simple checks, you should be well placed to get an extremely reliable car.