General Tips

Did you know that almost 1 in every 5 used cars on road today have had their odometers altered? And that 1 in 20 used cars have been rebuilt by reassembling bits from a collection of salvaged vehicles? To minimize the risk of purchasing a bad used vehicle, you should follow the 3 simple steps mentioned below. But first, some general tips:

  1. Regardless of where you buy a second hand car, whether it's from a dealer or a private seller, and no matter what type of second hand car you choose, new model, old model, or a certified used vehicle, you as the buyer ought to find out the true condition of the car before purchase. Don't be fooled by a steam cleaned, nice looking car, as there can be a chance that it will end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs after the sale.
  2. Doesn't matter what the seller or dealer say about the used vehicle, at the end of the day it is your responsibility to find out the true condition of the vehicle before you make the final decision. Be mindful that any verbal statements made by the dealer or salesperson, about the condition of the used vehicle, are not enforceable in a court of law. Only paper documents are enforceable in the courts.
  3. "Curbstoner" is a term that was first used to describe unlicensed hobbyists who sells by parking collections of used cars in vacant areas along the curb side off the road. In Hong Kong, curbstoners are the private used car dealers who pose their car advertisements as private sellers. They will sell the used vehicles from road sides or from their home. In most cases, curbstoners are usually willing to sell any used vehicles, including those with questionable histories, altered odometers, hidden mechanical faults, or even salvaged vehicles. The incentive is high profits. Curbstoners will sell used vehicles below the book value and tell the buyer about their badluck story and why they had to sell quickly. The buyer buys their story and was taken in by the lure of a low selling price.

Important Questions to ask

Ask the Seller 
When you are purchasing a used vehicle from a private seller, ask the following questions before you take it for a test drive:

  1. In whose name is the car registered under?
  2. Are you the owner/authorized seller of the car?
  3. How long have you owned the car?
  4. What is the mileage on the car?
  5. Why are you selling the car?
  6. Have there been any major repairs done on the car?
  7. Has there been any accidents on the car?
  8. Are there any rust on the car?
  9. Does all the mechanical and electrical systems work?
  10. Is the car available for a professional inspection?

Ask the professional………………….HKMI
The previous questions are for the sellers to answer only; you should also try to get unbiased answers to the following questions in order to help you determine the true conditions of the vehicle:

A) How has the vehicle been treated? 
Was the vehicle driven sensibly or was it misused/abused by its previous owner? Was the vehicle given regular maintenance service? Any premature wear and tear problems will cost you more in the future maintenance and repair costs.

B) Is the vehicle in good working condition? 
Does the vehicle have any existing problems or any problems that hidden even to the current owner? Has any components been tampered to hide existing problems? Any of these existing problems can potentially cost you thousands of dollars to repair once you make the purchase.

C) Has the vehicle been involved in any accidents? 
If so, what was the impact of the damage(s), and how well were the repairs made because any un-repaired damage or substandard repairs can compromise the safety of the vehicle. Vehicles with major previous accidents may have a higher chance of chronic mechanical problems.

1-2-3 Steps of Buying a Good Used Car

The following 1-2-3 steps will help you find out the true answers to the above questions.

Step 1 - Test Drive the Car. 
Test driving the vehicle will help you determine any obvious problems and will help you get rid of some "not so good" choices. You should use this opportunity to check that

  1. the vehicle doesn't blow out any smoke when it starts up,
  2. the Air-condition blows cold air,
  3. the engine doesn't make any unusual noises,
  4. the car doesn't get pulled to one side or another when you apply the brakes,
  5. all the electrical accessories function properly, and
  6. that the car doesn't pull sideways under normal driving condition.

Be mindful that just because the vehicle drives well in a test drive DOES NOT mean that it hasn't got any hidden problems. Remember that you will be accountable for all the repair costs after the purchase.

Step 2 - Negotiate the best deal. 
You may be able to find a rough estimate on the price of the used vehicle by

  1. searching in websites,
  2. joining online discussion forums, or
  3. asking your loan officers for pricing information about the vehicle.

The estimated price from the above sources will be based on the assumption that it is a good condition vehicle with no repairs required and no previous accident damages. The actual negotiated price should be adjusted for every existing problem items on the vehicle. Any problem items should be deducted as a repair cost amount from the orginal estimate. Don't be thinking that because you negotiated on the price you will be obliged to buy the car right away. Only until you find out the true condition of the car will you be able to tell if the price is a good deal or not. Again, remember that you will be accountable for all the repair costs after the purchase.

Step 3 - Obtain a Comprehensive and Unbiased Inspection. 
There are many types of pre-purchase inspections, but only an independent inspection from an experienced mechanical and structural/body specialist is able to provide you a comprehensive inspection. Hong Kong Motor Inspection's 250+ point mechanical, structural/body, and electrical inspection will provide you with all the important information that you need to make your final purchase decision. Once the vehicle has been inspected, the negotiated price should then be re-negotiated based upon the findings from the inspection report and the true condition of the vehicle.

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