When I was in New Zealand, my boyfriend and I decided to buy a secondhand car for our road trip across the North and South islands. I wrote a separate blog about the pros and cons of buying a car rather than renting, check that out here.
The whole process ended up being a little more tricky than we had originally anticipated, and there were lots of things that I learnt that I wish I had known beforehand! So I've put together a list of 7 top tips for buying a car abroad. Hope this help!
1) Check all platforms
When we finally decided we were going to try and buy a car, we weren't really sure where to start our search. I ended up joining all the car selling Facebook pages relevant to our local area- for example, we were living in Queenstown in New Zealand at this point, so I joined all the 'Queenstown Cars For Sale' pages. We also found it was worth widening the search to the next big town or closest city as this gave us way more options!
If you are trying to buy in Australia or New Zealand, we also found that 'Trade Me' was a great website to check. But most importantly, we found that the search doesn't always have to take place online. We were also always checking the notice boards in supermarkets, and if we drove past a vehicle with a 'For Sale' sign in the window, we always stopped to check it out.
2) Bring Someone With Mechanical Knowledge
If possible, always try to view the car with someone with mechanical knowledge, no matter how limited this might be! We were lucky enough to be living with a guy who seemed to know his stuff, and in hindsight I literally don't know why we didn't bring him along to the viewings. We would come home and relay everything to him, and he'd be able to give us a pretty solid opinion but it would have helped to have him there in person.
3) Do Your Research!
If you can't bring someone with mechanical knowledge with you, then do your research! It's so important to go to viewings sounding and feeling knowledgable. I went to our first car viewing alone, and it was so painfully obvious that I had no clue what I was looking for and talking about, and I could feel the guy selling it wasn't taking me as seriously because of this.
I went home and did a lot of reading up on advice for buying second hand cars. I found this document in particular super helpful- it's from the New Zealand government but I feel like it could be applied to every country. We actually printed this off and went through the checklist with the seller to make sure we didn't miss anything.
4) Get a Pre- Purchase Inspection!
One of the best valuable things we learnt was about a pre-purchase inspection. Maybe this is common knowledge and I am just massively out the loop, but I didn't know about this! A pre-purchase inspection is when you can take a car to be checked over by a garage before you buy it, to make sure there aren't any major issues with the vehicle. In New Zealand, this service cost us about $60 NZD, but could have saved us hundreds, if not thousands if the inspection had uncovered any big problems. Luckily, ours seemed okay so we felt confident to go ahead and buy it.
Buying a car is a massive chunk of money, and we felt getting this inspection just gave us peace of mind. If anything now went wrong with the car, it wasn't 'our fault' for not checking it over properly before we bought it, it would just be bad luck.
5) Ask to See Paperwork
Again, I think this is another pretty obvious one but as I'd never done it before it was all new advice to me. A legitimate owner should have evidence of all the work they've had done on the car, and all the paperwork to go with it. Always ask to see all the documents and go through them carefully yourself. We were told that buying a car with no paperwork is a very bad idea. Especially as you will find it much harder to sell later!
6) Run The Numberplate
I don't know if this is an option in all countries, but in New Zealand, you could run the numberplate of a potential vehicle through a website. This would then create a document showing you basic details about the car; age, make, number of doors, followed by much more important information about the cars mechanical history. In New Zealand, the car has to pass a 'WOF', a Warrant of Fitness. This document would list previous WOF's the car had been in for, and whether it had passed or failed. You could pay to see more details but for us, we found the free version was enough. We went to see several cars where we were told there had been 'no issues with the car at all,' yet when we ran the numberplate we found it had failed its last four WOF's. A very useful tool!
Here are some example websites:
7) Trust Your Gut!
Finally, most importantly, trust your gut. One of the first cars we saw we absolutely loved. It drove beautifully, the bed in the back was so cosy and it was just exactly what we wanted. We checked over all the mechanics ourselves and went through all the paperwork and everything seemed great. The owner was really friendly- until we asked to put the car in for a pre-purchase inspection. Then he got super funny about it, and offered us a lower price for the car (about $500 less) if we took it without an inspection because he 'didn't have time to mess around'. We were very tempted to go for the lower price, but it felt weird that he was so adamant that he didn't want an inspection on the car. In the end, we went with our gut and said no. Looking back, I am really glad we did because if something major had gone wrong with the car, we would be kicking ourselves for not trusting our instincts.
So as I say, I am not claiming to be any type of expert on buying cars, but when going through the process myself, I did speak to a lot of people and asked for a lot of advice!I was lucky to be surrounded by friends who had a lot of tips and I think that without some of these pointers, I would have made some big errors! Hope these help you, let me know if you have any more questions!