Buying A Car You Can’t Quite See

April 14th, 2020

Recent events have changed a lot within the automotive world, however many of us will still need to buy cars.

Some lucky folk with leases or other term purchase arrangements will usually be looking for another new model and here the internet can be of immense help. Car importers have sites which describe in great detail their current range and most will assist a buyer to personalise on-line the vehicle they want.

Clicking a series of buttons will bring up different models and then allow the user to choose colour, engine size and even accessories. There is often access to a service that lists dealers with cars in stock that suit your taste.

Of more concern to us though is the very much larger number of people who will be buying a used vehicle. Because of social distancing and travel restrictions it may not be possible to view a vehicle in person. However, you can do much of the necessary ‘legwork’ using available technology.

Inserting parameters into vehicle sales sites will provide a selection of potential acquisitions. Some may not be located close by but don’t let distance deny you a good deal.

Once you have a short-list of vehicles, time comes to closely inspect any photographs which have been uploaded and request shots that have been omitted. Using the largest screen you have available – and certainly not a mobile phone – look for inconsistencies to paintwork, dents or rust damage, worn seats (be very suspicious if the car still has seat covers fitted) and a dirty engine area.

Keep copies of photos showing any vehicle reaching the next stage of negotiation. This is to ensure that accessories such as a stereo or non-standard wheels are not replaced between the time you agree to buy and the vehicle being delivered.

Next step is to contact the vendor who may be the vehicle owner or a dealership sales rep. Have a list of questions ready and if the answer is ‘not sure’ or ‘don’t know’ then pass on that car.

Questions you need to ask include whether the vendor will make the vehicle available for independent inspection and how far from a major commercial centre is it located. Vehicles in far-flung places may not be accessible to inspection services or transport.

At this point and before making an offer it will be worthwhile spending some money on a vehicle history report. These are advertised on vehicle sales web-sites and provide information such as encumbrance (whether it has money owing) and whether it has been declared a Statutory Write Off after a crash and then repaired. Recent sales history will tell you if the vehicle was purchased very recently so you can ask the vendor why they decided to sell it so soon.

Once your offer is accepted, contact the vendor by email (not text unless there is no other means) detailing the terms of the sale. A dealer will often do this immediately and request transfer of a refundable holding deposit. Getting a deposit back from a private seller in another part of the country will be almost impossible so only leave a small amount (under $100) until the terms of the sale are satisfied.

Terms of the sale will need to include acceptance of any application for finance and assessment by an accredited pre-purchase inspection service. These cost a few hundred dollars and provide a detailed written report on the car’s condition, list any apparent faults and give approximate costs to repair them.

You can then decide to negotiate a lower price or cancel the sale and (hopefully) have your deposit refunded. Most dealers will agree to fix any mechanical or safety-related issues and negotiate on cosmetic or minor problems. Private sellers may not.

Transport from virtually anywhere in the nation is available but could take considerable time unless the vehicle is within easy distance of a major car carrier’s depots. Using one of these is preferable to having the car ‘backloaded’ on an empty semi-trailer where it may need to be lifted on and off by a fork-lift with greater risk of damage.

The point at which you pay your money and begin arranging transport is also the time to effect your insurance. If you are an existing Enthusiast Insurance client, then one phone call to Customer Service will get the vehicle added to your current policy.

If you are a newcomer to Enthusiast and don’t intend travelling huge distances in the vehicle (its journey on a car carrier’s truck doesn’t count) then our innovative Drive Less…Spend Less’ pricing system could bring big savings. In the first instance visit our website www.enthusiast.com.au  and request a Quick Quote.

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