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Old 01-07-11   #1
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Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India


Just got off the phone from my friend, who just bought a 04 model accent done "only" 45,000 kms. Over the discussion of the condition of the car, this idea came to my mind. So friends, here are some pointers to be careful about, and check while buying a second hand car, either from your local second hand car dealer, or even reputed ones like True Value or First Choice.


First Rule - They aint your friend, and you aint God that they will keep a special exclusive piece for you. Don't be swayed, and keep a clear head.



- Model variations - For hatch backs, the various versions like GL, GLX or LXI, VXI and ZXI vary by about 50-70 between variants. As the vehicle gets older, and its value depreciates, so does the price difference of the models. So if a 2003 WagonR LXI is selling for 1,25,000, a 2003 WagonR Vxi will sell around 1,30,000-1,35,000. Marginally more. The newer the vehicle, the greater the difference. So don't let the variant be a selling point for the dealer.

- Depreciation - Generally follows the thumb rule of insurance companies. 15-20% for the first year, 10% every year after that. So a 5Lakh hatch is 4.25 in the first year, 3.80 in the second, 3.50 in the third and so forth. But the price is also set with regards to the condition of the vehicle. This is a thumb rule for an idea for an ideally maintained vehicle. 20-40k + and - is possible.

Depreciation for higher models will be higher initially for the first few years.

- Odometer reading - Don't be swayed by vehicles like done only 25,000 kms in 3 years or 40,000 in 6. As a general rule what i have seen and understood in Delhi/North india this is how the odometer reading varies -

- Petrol Hatch/ Midsize car - 13,000-17,000 kms per year
- Upper level ( C-D segment ) - 10,000-15,-000 kms per year

So a 4 year car should be between 45 and 70k kms on the Odo.

This figure changes for Mumbai or Chennai ( I have no idea about average running in Chennai, but looking at the traffic and the distances involved, im guessing it should be around 8000-10,000 kms per year ). Mumbai is much lesser around 5000-8000 kms per year.

Important Tip - Always good to inquire the profession of the previous owner ( Not because if he/she turns out to be a doctor, then you have an extremely well maintained car ). If its a business person, expect higher number of kms done on the car, a corporate dude, lesser. Family vehicle, even lesser. A woman driver ( check for dents and repair, no ifs no buts and im not being a sexist ). And no, Doctors don't really drive below 60kmph all the time or behave like perfect gentlemen with their cars.


- Ask for a Service History if available - Check with the dealer what all services have been done, and whether at an authorized service centre or not. The service history will give you an idea of what all has been replaced/repaired on the vehicle, and what all work you can be looking at during your ownership. For eg, people don't really get their A/C systems service from the service centre once every year or two years as the manual suggests ( comes to nearly 3k for a Santro!! ). But if you want an efficient car, you will have to shell out that money to make sure its running fine in your hands.

Important Tip - Generally second hand cars have the stickers of the Service centres where they got serviced. Go to that service centre, grease a supervisor and ask him to take out the service history of the vehicle. Even if in between the vehicle was serviced anywhere else, the last service centre should be able to give you the entire history. Much easier in smaller town where there is only one dealer for each brand. That will also give you the number of kms your vehicle has done, any accidental history ( look for headlight, windscreen, taillight, bumper, replacements ).

I found out this way that a Santro we guys had bought had its meter reversed by nearly 20,000 kms!!



- Check Vehicle Papers - All the relevant ones. If you get your hands on the original purchase Invoice, better ( so if you are planning to sell your car, all these papers do matter ). Service History like already discussed ( Hold onto those service sheets, they go a long way in making your sale genuine as well, and get you a good price ).


Now to check out the car and various points of inspection and negotiation -

- A premium number was the first owners choice, your choice is the vehicle. Unless its really something like 007, don't come under the influence that you should shell out more for a premium number, its a second hand car for crying out loud!! Negotiate and reduce price on that.

- "Sir Mind blowing booming system with Boofer and Amplifier!!" - Nope not needed. Realistic prices of sound systems once they have been installed in cars ( regular hardware ) - Stereo - 1000-2000, Amp - 1500-3000, Woofer ( 800-1200 ), Speakers ( Nil - 1000 ). So the entire Booming setup is not worth more than 4-7k. And i hate it when the first feature dealers/friends who've purchased second hand cars point out is a "dhakkad" sound system.

Important Tip - This has been observed commonly in Delhi/NCR, not sure about other cities. Check out the Tint ( window film ) in the car, or see if it has been recently removed. Check the front windscreen, if it has two bands of tint ( one running across the top, and one at the bottom ). Check if at any time, Fog lights, a bull bar, Alloy wheels or broad tyres were fitted to the car ( The underside of the wheel wells will have scrape marks ). This goes with a booming sound system. If any of these are correct, then the car was possibly a RDDS ( Rich Dad Dumb Son's ) who got bored with it, and is now looking at burning some more money. Walk away.. The suspension, clutch and engine is gonna be scr3w3d enough to not be worth it at all. And generally due to a White color hangover in Delhi, 7 out of 10 times it will be a white car, The other 3 being divided between black, silver and the most outrageous color available.

- Check for additional accessories - Central Locking, Gear Lock, Steering lock etc. Those can be useful, but get a clear picture on the Central Locking, is it branded or cheap Chinese stuff. If its the Chinese stuff, you are better off without it, and in fact do get it removed and get branded ones like autocop or something installed ( those that come with warranty ). A gear lock ( provided he gives all the keys ), or steering lock is beneficial.

- Inspection of Body line - The first and most important bit. Inspect every damn thing possible. Areas that you have not seen on your own car, make sure you see them on this one. Apart from the regular checks for a frontal or rear end collision, and the A and B pillars for a roof cave in, check the under body ( the most difficult part to repair ). A higher number of scratches/dents indicate rough terrain or rough driving on the part of the owner. Be prepared to spend on suspension work earlier than normal.

In coastal areas, rusting is a big concern. Check for that. Susceptible areas - Wheel wells, underside of doors, Under body, beneath the passenger area ( remove mat/carpet and check ), Suspension mountings, and any modifications done to the metal structure ( Place where spoilers are fitted, or something else ).

If a panel has been repaired or re painted, the reflection will be different. The contour lines will be different, since no matter how hard you try, you cant really get it back to the same shape.

Important tip - Carry a small magnet with you ( the kind you can break off from behind small speakers or something similar ). Even a fridge magnet will do. What we are looking for are repaired areas. Where the denter has put in lamba patti ( filler to give the panel its due shape ), The magnet will stick less effectively, and on another surface more strongly. This is a good indication of repair being carried out on the car.

This Article is so long already and we still haven't come to the test drive!! lol!!

No we are not gonna drive the vehicle now. There is time.

- Check Tyres - Tyres give a very good indication of the condition of the vehicle, and also if the vehicle stated odometer reading is correct or not. Brand new tyres on a car does not mean brand new, They can be anything from 5000 to 15,000 kms, and with polish will look brand new, but last much much lesser.

Generally all tyres have a date of manufacturing printed on the sides, the important thing is to trace the date. For eg some tyre companies have it as easy as MAR06, and some have it as complex as ( some random series number )032006 or 200603some random number. Read whatever you can and deduce the age of the tyre. Why?

Tyres are in storage generally not more than a year. in a bustling city, not more than 3 months. Average life of tyres is anything between 30,000-50,000 kms. If its a two year old car, and the tyres are 2.1 or 2.2 years old, then you can be sure that they are the original tyres the car came with. Generally tyres are changed every 2.5-3 years, if tyres have been replaced much quicker, then the car has done higher mileage than what it shows on the Odo. A 6 year old car, with 2 year old worn out tyres, saying its done only 40,000 is a suspect. Be smart and calculate accordingly.

Check wear pattern ( alignment and balancing will be checked during the test drive ). If excessive wear on the inside of both the front tyres, possible suspension work. If one tyre is worn, either on the inside or outside, then its alignment. If the tyre is not straight and appears bent inward or outward, its suspension.

Check the Rims for bends, dents or hammering marks. Also check if the rim has been freshly painted or something. That would indicate repair, or a hard driven vehicle.


By this time, your jolly visit in the morning to check out a second hand car, must have become a prolonged torturous affair, and it should be evening. Best time to Test Drive. Yup, the inspection happens in the daylight, no the TD. And avoid going for a Test drive, right after its rained, or is excessively humid ( cant really suggest a time for the coastal regions ). Why? Because after rain, or during rain, or when the air is excessively humid, a) the A/C works like mad, so if there is any issue, it wont be highlighted. b) All the rubber beadings, mountings, washers, stoppers etc absorb this moisture ( I know synthetic rubber but still ), and a lot of the groans, squeaks, and other noises get muffled, or reduced considerably.


So a dry day ( hic ) is the right day!!

The dealer will sit in and switch off the stereo ( so you can have a proper TD ), How thoughful of him. and then turn the A/C on full blast to show you the cooling performance, while talking all the time. Shut the A/C and Shut him/her up. You need to listen to the car, not him/her.

Drive as you would normally and look for anything out of the normal. A late biting clutch indicates adjustment has been done to the clutch, and could be needing replacement if the car has done above 50,000 kms. Look for wobbling in the steering ( dont jump at the slightest of anything.. Its a second hand vehicle after all, just because you have been used to the groans and squeaks in your car, doesnt mean that anyone else is also, Remember that ).

Now speed things up and check all gears, and slotting and movement. Check for any undue vibrations, rattling etc. Drive over broken and undulating roads, slightly faster than what you would normally ( to the dismay of the dealer, however do ignore all protests, its your money and his commission ).

The shakes, and the sounds will give you an idea whats going, whats gonna go, and whats already gone.

Now for the thrilling part. Belt up ( actually should have before but still ), and find a open piece of road, better if its a neglected patch with no traffic.

First gear, rev up and dump clutch. a properly wearing clutch should still have enough to offer wheelspin. A worn out clutch will give little or nothing. An adjusted clutch will give a slight CHI! and thats all in terms of wheelspin.

Speed up pulling each gear higher, much higher than normal ( 1st till 30, 2nd till 50, 3rd till 80 and as depending on car ), and Brake. Brake Hard.

I Mean real Hard. Like stomping on the pedal, and on the verge of locking the wheels ( All the Schumachers, and Vettels would know what I'm talking about. See if the vehicle swerves to one side, or there is a sudden pull on the steering. If not, all izz well. If there is, you could have a sticky piston somewhere needing attention.

Get out of the car, and smell the air around the engine bay ( do u smell burning oil? obviously there will be a lil smell, but not excessive ). Start car, ask a friend to rev engine ( this can be done later also, important factor is engine should be hot ), and check for smoke and burnt oil smell in the exhaust. A free revving engine, with not shudders at idling after heating up indicates a good engine.

Dont be swayed that the car is low on fuel thats why its shuddering. It will shudder when the car will be on the absolutely last half litre of fuel.

Now that the dealer would have his balls back down where they belong, turn the steering end to end, and check for any sounds during turning. Also do a complete lock 360. Any rattle would indicate work to the front axles or ball joints ( Axles generally ).

Now u can check the A/C cooling. Make sure you test it for more than 15-20 minutes ( By that time the compressors if faulty, will overheat and cut off ). Check the HVAC system, make sure all the knobs and the indicated direction in which air has to go is working.

The Air vent( from the interior to the outside ) generally packs up in most cars, either fully closed or partial. Check for that.

Check the alignment of the headlights, and make sure that they have proper throw. Nowadays all cars generally follow the international design of more throw on the left side, and slightly lesser on the right ( under high beam ). If its the same on both sides, then that means the lights have been adjusted.

There is a dumb Government requirement for Tilt adjustable headlights. Check that the motors are working fine.

Now to check all other features like wiper motor, washer ( front and rear if present ). Generally there wont be any water in the washer tank if there is an issue with the feed, get it filled and check the operation.

Other features like electrically adjustable mirrors, defogger etc. They don't really go bad that fast, but just do check.

If you are happy, then buy it... But -

Important Tip - Remember if its from a branded outlet like true value or first choice, the margin is nearly 10-15k for a 2L car, even more. So bargain.
Ask for freebies, maybe new mats, replace the mudflaps, discount in the insurance. Its like buying a new car, only cheaper. And don't go for the free services. They don't do anything really. The warranty on offer is useful though.

Once the price is settled, and you have gotten your car, the next part is living with it, and that will need another brain fart from me sometime later. But yes, after the temple and the customary ride for the family, the next day it goes to a good service centre, preferably known, or at a considerable distance from the one it was going to, for a complete service.


Cheers...
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Old 01-07-11   #2
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle...

OMG!!!!!! really exhaustive article man. Was a nice read, does any1 go to such lenghts while buying a 2nd hand car though???
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Old 01-07-11   #3
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle...

^^ I actually left out some more points that ill keep adding as i remember them. Yup, If you wanna save money on a second hand car ( the first reason for buying one ), then you need to be careful about these things... Unlike foreign countries where the entire service history of a vehicle is made available or is mandatory for a clean sale, we are really really messed up!!!
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Old 01-07-11   #4
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle...

Helpful! Very Helpful!
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Old 01-07-11   #5
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle...

Thank you. Any and all second hand queries can also be asked in this thread...
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Old 01-07-11   #6
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle...

Very useful and informative article JD. Thanks for this.
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Old 01-07-11   #7
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle...

I'm sharing this on Twitter n FB ..

Good article JD ..

EDIT: Everyone +1 the OP and try to share it over G+ ..
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Old 01-07-11   #8
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

@banik:i travel thru karol bagh daily. and trust me, whatever jd has said can actually turn out to be inadequate at times!

jd, great effort dude!

Last edited by baba doga; 01-07-11 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 01-07-11   #9
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

thanks guys, hope it helps. @vj- does this qualify as an entry for the contest??
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

Yes, I think we can take this as a contest entry.
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Old 01-07-11   #11
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

Its got my vote ...
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Old 02-07-11   #12
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

^^ thanks man!!!
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Old 03-07-11   #13
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

Need to bookmark this! That Delhi part is bang on target.

A car is normally your second most expensive asset and one must do lots of research before finalizing.
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Old 03-07-11   #14
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

^^ Thank you.. dont forget to share with your friends..
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Old 03-07-11   #15
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Re: Pointers for Buying a Second Hand Vehicle in India

I already did!
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