So you’ve done it. You’ve decided that you want to get a new second-hand car. But where do you start? And how do you know that the car is as reliable as what the seller is saying on their ad? No car buyer wants to find out that they’ve paid more for a car than it is actually worth. Neither do they want to fork out cash on repairs for a car they’ve only just bought. While this generally happens to an unfortunate few, there are several things that you can consider to help you avoid instant regret after purchasing a new vehicle.

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Identify your needs  Identify your needs

Yes, it really starts as simple as this. Start asking yourself what it is that you need from a car to ensure you make the right decision. Do you need something that’s spacious for those family camping trips during the summer? Or is a compact car more suitable for your busy life in the city?


Do your research  Do your research

If you want to ensure that you’re getting value for money and not being ripped off, then researching what else is out there is a great place to start. Check online and look at other sellers that are advertising the same vehicle that you’re currently considering. Compare their condition, age, price and mileage in comparison to the car that you’re interested in. If you can find something that’s better than what you’re currently looking at, then you may want to re-think your options.


Check it out  Be sure to check it out

It goes without saying that these days you can make anything look good in a photo. Images advertising a vehicle might make it look like a Ferrari when in reality they’re trying to sell an old banger. Checking the car out in person and really examining its condition will always reassure any buyer that everything is as it seems. One top tip is to pay particular attention to the body panel alignment of a car, as mismatched panels are usually a sign of previous crashes, damage and repairs – so keep an eye out.


Test drive  Take it for a test drive

While the vehicle may be looking spick and span from the exterior, there’s no way to tell what’s really going on inside, until you take it for a drive. You’ll immediately get a feel for the car, its handling, transmission and much more and whether it’s right good for you.


Servicing History  Ask for its servicing history

Cars that have records of consistent servicing have usually been well maintained by their owners. So buying a car with a reliable servicing history will give you some reassurance that the car you are about to buy is unlikely to need any immediate repairs.

While these steps should help answer some of the queries that you may have about a vehicle before you buy, sometimes it’s handy to get some help from the experts as well.


Vehicle inspection  Vehicle inspection

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If you still have unanswered questions about the condition of a car before you buy it, an AA Vehicle Inspection will help give you complete confidence in your purchase. Our mechanics carry out a 100+ point vehicle check, giving you a very strong indication of any recommended repairs and potential WoF issues. At $184 for AA Members, an AA Vehicle Inspection requires a financial commitment to be made before you even own the car. However, the other option is to take your chances and find out at the car’s next service or WoF that it’s not in good shape. Or even worse, you get a nasty surprise when you’re driving it that all isn’t as it was made out to be.


Car History checks  Car history checks and vehicle reports

AA Vehicle History Reports check over three million records held in government and private databases, covering cars, vans, trucks, motorbikes, caravans and trailers. They provide you with reassurance that you’re not about to buy a car that’s an insurance write-off, has been stolen or is about to be repossessed. An AA Vehicle History Report costs $18.95 for AA Members.


Valuation  Vehicle valuation

AA Vehicle Valuation Reports check the market price for pretty much any make or model of car in New Zealand to ensure that you’re paying a fair market value when buying a new car. It will also specify the mileage, condition, petrol consumption and emissions rating of the car, giving you an idea of how much the running costs of a car will be. An AA Vehicle Valuation Report costs $19.95 for AA Members.

Buying a second-hand car can be cheap or expensive but either way you want to avoid paying out more in the long run. You can do this by taking your time upfront, making the right choice based upon your needs and following these steps yourself will also help give you some idea about what to look out for. And there’s that little bit of extra help that’s available from the experts at AA as well, which will help protect yourself and your family. Happy car hunting!

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