Are you in the market for a second-hand car? Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to upgrade your current vehicle, buying a used car can offer great value for money. To ensure you're making a wise investment and not inheriting someone else's problems, a thorough vehicle inspection is crucial. We’ve gathered some essential tips on the things to check when buying a car. So, let’s dive in!

And remember, if you are in need of some financial assistance when looking for your next car purchase, Instant Finance is here to help.


Look for after-sales service, warranties, value for money and support

If you’re looking for a second-hand car, visit Easy Driver, a sister company of Instant Finance. At Easy Driver, you’ll get access to real after-sales care. Found a problem with your vehicle? We’ll put it right. No deposit? No deposit is needed with us. Needing a warranty? Our ‘Easy Drive’ warranty has absolutely no excess to pay and is highly competitive with its cover.

Ask about our fantastic selection of vehicles, after-sales care, and Easy Drive warranty conditions at any branch of Instant Finance or at the Easy Driver car yard.

Instant Finance provides car loans through Easy Driver or any other car yard or private sale. If you have any questions about our car loans, give our friendly team a call or visit our car loans page for more information. If you start your online application today, you could have the money in your account in 24hrs after your application has been approved!

Once you’ve got your finances sorted, there are a few things to check before buying a second-hand car.


General inspection

Firstly, run through a general inspection to see if you like the car and identify any glaring issues that are likely to be deal breakers.

  1. If possible, take a car-savvy friend or family member with you. It’s helpful to have a second set of eyes and ears that can pick up on things you might overlook in your excitement to buy a new car.
  2. Test drive the vehicle to see if you like the way it feels, and make sure to take it on a motorway to see how it drives at high speeds (within the speed limit!). Turn the radio off and listen out for any odd noises during acceleration and braking. Note: Ask about insurance during the test drive as you may be liable for any accidents that may occur, even during a short drive.
  3. Don’t forget to check the car for a current Warrant of Fitness (WOF) and registration. In New Zealand, it’s standard that cars are sold with both up to date. Expired certifications or refusal on the seller’s part to acquire them is a certain red flag.
  4. Check the history of the vehicle, including number of owners, whether it was imported, if there is still money owing, and if it’s been stolen before. You can get this information in an inexpensive report from Carjam.


Mechanical inspection

If the vehicle passes your general inspection, it’s time to start looking at its mechanical performance (this is especially important for older vehicles). It’s best to have the mechanical pre purchase vehicle inspection done by a qualified vehicle inspector.

One of the main benefits of a pre purchase vehicle inspection is that it provides you with an unbiased assessment of the car's condition. A professional inspector, like an AA pre-purchase inspector, will thoroughly examine the vehicle, checking for any signs of damage, wear and tear, or mechanical issues. This can help you identify any potential problems and negotiate a fair price based on the car's actual condition.

Before spending money on a professional vehicle inspection, though, it can be easy to check a few things yourself.

  1. View the car in dry conditions, as it can be difficult to spot imperfections if the car is wet.
  2. Check that all the body panels are straight. Ripples or dents can suggest previous damage or accidents.
  3. Look for rust spots or bubbles under the paint, especially around joins or gaps in panelling.
  4. Check for smoke coming from the exhaust while the car is revving and at idle.
  5. Listen out for knocking or other strange noises coming from the engine.
  6. Check the tyre tread. The minimum legal tread is 1.5mm, and uneven wear could mean the wheels need alignment. Make sure to check the spare tyre as well!
  7. Find out whether the car has a cam-belt. If it does, these need to be replaced every 100,000 kms, which isn’t cheap to get done!
  8. Test the shocks by pushing down on the car above the wheel. It should come straight back up without bouncing up and down.
  9. Look underneath the engine for any oil or coolant leaks. You should also check the ground underneath where the car is usually parked.
  10. Check the oil and water levels. If they’re low, it usually suggests the car has not been well maintained.


If you’ve gone through the full list of things to check before buying a second-hand car and you’ve had it looked at by a professional, you should be confident that it’s a good buy.

Buying a second-hand car can be a rewarding experience if approached with caution and thoroughness. By conducting a pre-purchase vehicle inspection and following our list of things to check when buying a car, you can ensure that you're making an informed decision and avoid potential pitfalls.

Whether you're a first-time buyer or looking to upgrade your vehicle, Instant Finance's experienced team is ready to assist you in making your car ownership dreams a reality. Apply for a car loan online and experience the fast and easy application process and personalised interest rates that are catered to your financial situation.

So, before you finalise your decision, be sure to follow our tips, set yourself up with some car finance if needed, and you’ll be on the road in no time!

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