While the second-hand car loan process is quite seamless and simple you can be stumped by the prospects of choosing a used car in good working condition. How do you decide that a used car is in good working condition? Would it give you trouble free service after you buy it? Would it be a gas guzzler? What repairs or maintenance need to be performed to ensure its smooth functioning?

There are several ways in which you can evaluate the condition of a used car. Often, you may consult a friend or a car mechanic. These days, the concept of pre-owned cars has been given a fillip by original automakers who certify the pre-owned cars and offer various benefits including warranties.

Be that as it may, it is always better to improve your knowledge of cars so that you can evaluate the car on your own to supplement the advice given by the people you consult.

We present below a few tips on how to evaluate the condition of a used car.

Do due diligence on the seller

The antecedents of the seller of the used car are as important as the car itself. If you are buying from an original owner then you can quiz the owner on his daily routine to understand the usage characteristics. Often, a car owner with a sedentary life tends to use the car less and these cars have many good miles remaining. If you are going through an intermediary make sure the intermediary is genuine and has a good reputation.

The remaining life of the car

Today’s cars are high technology oriented. They come equipped with components manufactured with state of the art technologies. As such, the cars can run without maintenance for long periods. Therefore, the miles run with the current and past owners gives an indication of the remaining life of the car. However, various parts of the car come with varying lifespan. For instance, there is long life for the engine typically lasting more than 300,000 Km for petrol engines and 400,000 Km for diesel engines provided of course the owner maintains the car well. In the case of tyres, the lifespan varies from about 50,000 Km to 100,000 Km depending on the type of roads the owner drives on. In India, cars beyond the age of 15 years need to obtain a certificate of fitness from the RTO.

Therefore, you must ascertain the kilometre reading on the odometer to determine the remaining life of the car.

Inspect the car with a critical eye

‘A stitch in time saves nine’ is a proverb that suits perfectly for you, the used car buyer. If you diligently evaluate the second-hand car at the time of buying, you can spare yourself the hassles later on when you start using the car. Remember that the car is a piece of equipment with multiple moving parts and has already served its past owners for a few years before it is put on the market. The wear and tear on the car with the previous owners is dependent on the way they maintain the car as also the conditions of the roads that they drive on.

You can look out for the following when you examine the car critically:

Test drive

You should undertake a test drive to get a feel of the car’s handling such as acceleration, braking, idling, and manoeuvrability. You can also check out the noise level while driving or when idling. You can inspect all the functional aspects of the car – lights, indicators, wipers, locks, windows, boot, doors, horn, instrument cluster and the like during the test drive. If you are not confident of the assessment then you should take the help of your mechanic or your friends who are knowledgeable about cars.

About the car

There are non-performance oriented information about the car that can corroborate the findings during the test drive and inspection.
You should look for:

  • Availability of original registration documents (do a double check if the car comes with official duplicate documents)
  • Up to date insurance papers
  • Transfer documents including relevant forms and delivery notes
  • Odometer reading
  • Servicing records – check for odometer readings at the time of service to ascertain the running life fairly accurately
  • Availability of duplicate key
  • Cross verification of engine, chassis and registration numbers (should be the same on the car and documents)

These help you to corroborate your findings when you take the test drive

All in all, evaluating the condition of a used car is a little more complicated than availing a second-hand car loan. However, you can take guidance from the above and perform the test drive and inspection.

In all probability, a 3-4 year old car is a good bet for you to consider buying. If this car’s maintenance is exceptional, then you should not have any problems for another 3-4 years of smooth running without too much maintenance from you as well. More importantly, with a good used car, you can hope for better terms from your lender on the used car loan you want to avail.