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    Used vehicles are ideal for those looking to stay within a budget, but there are certain risks associated with purchasing a used car, especially if the seller is not completely honest. To minimise these risks, you can apply many of the same deciding factors you would if you were purchasing a new car. You should also take the time to determine the type of vehicle you are looking for, your budget and the features you want. While spending extra time researching and making an educated decision may seem like a hassle, it can save you time and money in the end.

    Determine Your Budget

    Each budget is different, so before beginning the car buying process, set a price range. Your budget will play a large part in the type of vehicle you are able to purchase. Be sure to factor in added costs such as a roadworthy test and registration. You should also determine if you are willing to spend money on repairs should they be required.

    Choose a Car

    After setting a budget, starting shopping around. Research buyer's guides, reviews and classified ads in your area to determine the type of car and features you are able to fit within your budget. If you have a specific year, make and model in mind, contact several different sellers or dealers to find the best price. When you find a vehicle or two that falls into your price range and that you are interested in, contact the seller. Ask to arrange a meeting in a public place and ask to test drive the vehicle. If the seller refuses, or if you feel uneasy, do not feel obligated to meet the seller or go forward with the process. Before meeting with the seller to look at the vehicle, do your research. Look up the value of the car by comparing it to similar ones for sale in your area.

    Negotiate

    Even when buying a used car, do not be afraid to negotiate a better price. Be friendly and if you do not agree with the price the seller insists upon, walk away. Do not pay more than what you feel comfortable paying.

    Request a Roadworthy Certificate

    A roadworthy certificate is required when a vehicle changes ownership. Without this certificate, you will be unable to register or license the vehicle in your name after making the purchase. The inspection can take place at any station that has been trained according to the South African Bureau of Standards to conduct the test. During the test, safety items including the brakes, lights, steering and tyres are checked to ensure they comply with safety standards. If a vehicle fails the test, it can be retested, and if it passes, the certificate is valid for six months. When purchasing a used car, ask the seller to show you the roadworthy certificate. While this does not guarantee that problems do not exist, it does show you that the vehicle meets basic safety requirements. Make sure the roadworthy test is recent, as an older or outdated test may no longer apply.

    Check Other Information

    Along with asking for proof of a roadworthy test, take a few minutes to make sure the vehicle has a number plate, a chassis number and an engine number. You can also ask the seller if the vehicle has been serviced lately and if so, if there are documents proving it. You should also inquire as to whether the car has been in any accidents.

    Check the Car

    Even if the seller provides service information or notifies you of any defects, check the car over carefully. If you are not familiar with vehicles, or do not feel comfortable doing the inspection yourself, have a friend accompany you. You can even have it checked by a mechanic to ensure there are no major problems.

    Under the Bonnet

    Check the engine to determine if there are worn hoses, evidence of an oil leak or cracks in the belts. Glance under the car to see if there is any indication that other fluids are leaking. You should also check the battery to make sure it is free from corrosion and build-up.

    Check the Body

    Spend a few minutes looking for signs that the vehicle has been in an accident or that major repairs have been made. Look for differently coloured panels, ripples in the paint or spots where the paint is chipped or cracked. You can also check the doorjambs, the lining of the bonnet and inside the boot for paint overspray. This would indicate the car has been painted by someone other than the manufacturer.

    Test Drive the Car

    After the visual inspection, test drive the vehicle for 15 to 20 minutes. Pay close attention to the steering, the brakes, the shifting of gears and whether any unusual noises are heard. Try the windows, the lights, the wipers and any other components to make sure they operate correctly.

    Finalise the Purchase

    When you find the car for you, make sure the proper paperwork is in order. Have the seller fill in their information on the certificate of transfer. Without proper documents, transferring the vehicle in your name can be difficult.

    Buying a used car is a good choice for many people, especially those working with a tighter budget. While used cars can save you money, there are many factors to consider and things to check to ensure you are making an educated purchase.

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