6 Red flags to avoid when buying a secondhand vehicle, according to a used car dealer

Apparently, it starts with where you look
Nov 10, 2020
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Now that transportation options are limited and not exactly risk-free, buying your own vehicle seems like a practical decision. But these days, getting a brand-new one might not be an option, so you may want to consider a ride that’s secondhand.

According to Ferdinand James Ugarte, who has 18 years of experience in selling cars—both used and brand-new—buying a quality pre-owned vehicle is one of the most financially sound decisions anybody can make.

“Buyers can at least manage their depreciation losses,” says the CEO of professional car dealership ALL Cars, which has been on online selling platform Carousell for years now. “When a person buys a brand-new car, he or she loses 30% of the vehicle’s paid-up value the moment they drive out of the dealership.”

But while buying secondhand may be a sound option, it can be difficult to tell good deals apart from bad ones. These are some red flags to watch out for:

Tire wear versus mileage

The tires tell a lot about a vehicle. Ideally, a car with around 20,000km on the odometer should still have its original set of tires. “When the prospective buyer finally has the opportunity to check the car for real, they should always be mindful of the mileage versus the overall condition of the vehicle,” explains Ugarte. “Especially the wear and tear on the steering wheel, shift knob, driver’s seat, and tires.” If it shows more wear than its mileage would suggest, it would be wise to steer clear.

For first-timers, it may be a good idea to look for cars with lower mileage—your chances of encountering a vehicle without too much wear are higher. Try starting your search on Carousell so you can adjust your search to show you listings by mileage, and even by fuel type and by the last number of the license plate.

The smell of the car

You already know how well the previous owner took care of the vehicle based on how the cabin smells. “A telltale sign a car has been flooded is the presence of unusual foul smell in the interior,” Ugarte notes. Meanwhile, while a pungent smoke smell indicates that the previous car owner was a smoker. Either way, both are odors that aren’t easy to get rid of.

Odd noises from the engine

Turning a blind eye on some dings and dents are acceptable, but be sure to pay extra attention to possible engine issues. If you hear a strange noise coming from the engine, walk away. If you smell smoke under the engine compartment or see an oil splatter on the pavement, also walk away. All of these are signs of serious problems that will more likely give you more headaches down the road than the car is worth.

Unusual meet-up times and locations

Ugarte advises buyers to be wary of sellers who insist on meeting them in sketchy areas or at obscure hours of the day. “This is a sign that the transaction might not at all be legal and prospective buyers should avoid these situations at all costs,” he says. “In this current boom in pre-owned automotive sales, pre-owned car dealers must take extra caution in transacting with potential buyers and sellers.”

If you want more assurance about your seller, you can find well-established dealers like Ugarte by simply looking for a Premium Seller badge on their Carousell profiles.

Very low price points

If something is too good to be true, then there must be a catch. This one is the mother of all red flags, so be sure to do your research before you start making a deal. “It will really be beneficial for buyers to check and compare online prices of the car to make sure that they are paying the correct fair market value of the vehicle,” shared Ugarte. With its wide selection of vehicles, Carousell may be a good place to take a search and compare market prices for the vehicle you want.

A seller who doesn’t seem to care

If a seller shows signs of not caring at all, believe them. A professional car dealer himself, Ugarte describes a trustworthy seller as someone with a calm and cool demeanor that could even offer advice and share their knowledge about the vehicle. “A seller that offers a ‘Money Back Guarantee’ on its vehicle documentation is [also] a sign of a trustworthy dealer,” he adds.

Ugarte underscores the importance of a platform where you can find legitimate buyers and trustworthy sellers. After all, high-quality vehicles are no good if you don’t have people you can deal with professionally.

You’ll find many good sellers on Carousell (formerly OLX), which Ugarte describes as an ideal marketplace for secondhand car buyers to find vehicles that fit their budget and lifestyle. On average, Carousell has 20,000 cars to choose from monthly from over 50 automotive brands—and many of these listings come from trusted sellers like Ugarte.

With the platform's wide variety of products and services, attainable prices, and flexible payment and transaction methods, your chances of finding quality sellers and vehicles are high—making it the place to go for your next ride.

Start your search by downloading the app through the App Store and the Google Play Store. To learn more about Carousell, visit its official website or its Facebook.

This article is created by Summit Storylabs in partnership with CAROUSELL.
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