THE PUNCH Newspaper

In the past when Nigeria’s economy was a lot better than it is now, a lot of citizens in the middle class bought only brand new or what is known in local parlance as ‘tear rubber’ cars. In fact, many citizens did not need to spend their money to buy such cars; some employers of labour reportedly gave their employees new cars as part of the employee benefits package.

But following the country’s economic doldrums, many citizens have been unable to afford new cars. Till today, brand new cars are perhaps beyond the reach of many citizens, even those in the middle class; hence, foreign used or ‘tokunbo’ cars have become a viable alternative as they are cheaper than brand new ones. As a matter of fact, many Nigerians now also buy ‘Nigerian used cars’ (second-hand cars already used in Nigeria), which are relatively cheaper than foreign used ones.

However, it can be frustrating to raise funds to buy a used car, only to end up buying a faulty one that keeps draining one’s resources.sowhicheversecond-handcaryouwanttobuy,experts recommend taking the following steps before purchasing one:

Define what you want and do your research

Before anything else, take some time to write down what you want from a car: How many people does it need to sit? Would you like it to be small or large? Are there certain features that you feel it must have?

Then research which cars fit your description and what their prices are. Walking into the dealership just to browse can prevent you from really finding the best deals because you may be pressured into the sale by a highly-trained salesperson. Before you ever set foot on a car lot, look at classified ads and print out information on cars from different dealerships so that you have a better idea of what is available and what you should expect to pay for similar vehicles in your area.

Set your budget

Don’t let a pushy salesperson persuade you to extend your budget just to get the vehicle you want. Setting a price range for yourself can also help you narrow your search and negotiate a price you are truly comfortable with. When you talk with the seller, be firm with your budget range, but don’t share your target price until the dealer or seller makes an offer – not revealing the number gives you more negotiating power. And remember, a used car budget shouldn’t just include funds for the car, but also money for an inspection and to cover any small repairs that may be necessary.

Used cars will need a little extra attention from time to time: new tyres, maintenance and so on. And then there are the other ownership costs shoppers sometimes forget to account for, such as fuel and insurance.

Check the vehicle history report

Unless you’re buying thecarfromaclosefriend or family member who can vouch for its history, plan to get a vehicle history report. This early step is essential. If the car you’re looking at has a bad history report, the sooner you know the better.

There are sites for vehicle history reports. You can research them. These reports can reveal vital information about the car, including whether the odometer has been rolled back or if it has a salvage title, which means it has been declared a total loss by the insurance company. You’ll use the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to get this information, and in some cases, all you need is the licence plate number.

Contact the seller

Once you find a good prospective car, don’t run out to see it. Call the seller first. This step is an excellent way to establish a relationship with the seller and verify the information about the car. You can ask private-party sellers why they’re parting with a car or whether it has any mechanical problems. And if you’re buying from a dealer, a phone call or text is the best way to ensure the car is still in stock.

Test-drive the car

Test-driving a used car is the best way to know if this is the right car make and model for you. It’s also a good way to assess this particular car’s condition. You can employ a mechanic as you carry out this step. Here are some things to check:

-Is it easy to get in and out of the car without stooping or banging your head?

-Is there enough headroom, hip-room and legroom? Remember to check the space in the back seat too.

-Is the check engine light on? If so, get that problem checked out before buying.

-Use your nose. Do you smell gas, burning oil or anything amiss?-check out the tyres. How old are they? Is there enough tread left?

-How are the brakes? Are they doing the job of stopping the car? Do they squeak?

-Popthehood.youdon’thavetoknowalotaboutcarstosee if something looks wrong. If something is leaking, steaming or covered in oil, it’s time to ask questions.

-Does the air conditioning blow cold? Do headlights, brake lights and turn indicators work? Test them to be sure.

Be prepared to walk away

If you are comfortable with the car you just assessed, then negotiate a good deal. If not, be prepared to walk away. Don’t check out a car with the intent of purchasing it that day. Being too eager to make the purchase can put you in a position to accept an offer you’re not truly comfortable with or settle for something that may cause more problems down the road. No matter how good the deal seems, be prepared to shop around so you aren’t pressured into buying a vehicle that may not be the right match for you.


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