Buying a used car is a proper skill and one that is developed over time and with lots of experience. If you want to buy a used car in Singapore, the skill needs to be even more developed due to all the issues with badly maintained cars, COE, unexpected fees, dishonest dealers and some of the highest prices for used cars in the world.
Hence buying a used car can be a daunting task and one that should not be taken lightly to save you the headache down the road.
We are here to help you decide if used cars in Singapore are worth buying for you and, if so, how to go through the process as peril-free as possible.
Is a second-hand car worth buying?
There is no correct answer here. The peace of mind that comes from buying a new car, as well as the latest technological advancements, are very enticing. On the other hand, you can save a lot of money by buying a used car.
Moreover, it is not just about the money. Even if you can afford a new car, you can usually buy a higher class one for the same amount of money if you buy used. These kinds of vehicles also depreciate more quickly, so the saving is even more significant.
However, you should not go for cars that are too old. Most regular cars depreciate more than 20% in the first year and the depreciation rate slows down after that. Generally speaking and depending on how much you are willing to spend, the sweet spot between age and value is somewhere between three and seven years old.
Depreciation is already significant after three years, so you can save a lot of money and most cars are still under warranty and the latest generation of the model. At about seven years old the car has lost a large chunk of its value, it is out of warranty so it can be taken to independent mechanics and it is as close to the ten year limit as it can be considered comfortable.
To give a short answer to the question above, if you cannot afford the car you want brand new, buying a used vehicle is worth it.
Which car is best as a second hand buy?
A well-maintained one! That is the best answer to this question. However, it is not the only answer.
Aside from a clean service history, there are some general points to consider. If you want to buy a used car in Singapore, you probably want to save some money. With that in mind, you should look for cars made by prominent manufacturers, with a good servicing network and relatively affordable prices of spare parts.
You should also consider cars which are more common on the streets of Singapore because this usually means there are more of them to choose from and there is more information about potential issues with a particular model.
Japanese car models are known to be more durable than its continental peers in general. But a lot boils down to how well the car was serviced by its previous owner/s.
What to check when buying a used car?
A used car inspection is essential and it should be done in several steps. You should get the basic information from the seller even before you see the car. This information includes things like mileage, when the road tax is due, number of previous owners, if it has full servicing history, if it was involved in any accidents, if there have been any modifications to the car, if all paperwork is in order, if there are any problems with the car, if it is certified and if it has a warranty and similar.
If you like the answers, you should not believe them, but you should go and see the car. Once there, try to get proof for everything you were told over the phone. See all the paperwork, but also inspect the car visually.
See if its interior is worn as much as you would expect from the mileage, if the paint has any different shades on some parts, or if reflections are imprecise. Also, see if body panels have the same gaps on both sides.
Check the fluid levels and let the car run for a while to check if there are any leaks under it. Get it to the working temperature and see if there are any unwanted changes. Press the throttle (you can usually do it from under the bonnet) and see if there are any leaks under higher revs.
Check if all the electronic features work fine. This includes things like air conditioning, lights, power windows, sunroof and similar.
Next, take the car for a drive. First, drive calmly and listen for any unwanted noises from the suspension or bad behaviour. This is the best time to see if gearbox works as it should. Shifts should be smooth and not noisy. If it is a manual, always try the clutch. It should be reasonably soft and with an even resistance all the way. Also, it should release closer to the middle of the range and not at the very bottom or top.
After this part, go over a speed bump to see how suspension behaves. Despite the uneven surface, the car should be controlled and there should be no unexpected sounds.
Next drive the car more spiritedly. This should raise the engine temperature a bit, but not a lot. It should also put the gearbox and suspension under more stress, so you will check how good they are.
Lastly, while driving on an even surface, hit the brakes hard while holding the steering wheel straight. The car should brake evenly on all sides and not slide sideways even a little. If this happens, there are a number of things that can be wrong and none of them is OK. For example, either the brakes or suspension are in bad shape and need replacement or the car has been in a hard accident and its geometry is distorted.
Some sellers might not be too happy that you are doing this, but you have the right to test the car properly. Sure you shouldn’t torture it, but you need to know that the engine will not overheat if the car goes up a hill heavily loaded or that you can put your faith in brakes.
If anything goes terribly wrong during the harder section of the test, rest assured that it would go wrong while driving peacefully soon.
Of course, you should not act as a racing driver, or drive the car hard for too long but a spirited acceleration, few sharper turns and a hard braking session should take up to 30 seconds.
Every good car should be able to endure these without any issues.
After the drive, open the bonnet again to see if there are any signs of problems, strange sounds or leaks.
Finally, always, and I mean always, take the car to a mechanic you trust for a complete and in-depth check. Whatever your knowledge and experience, you will never be able to beat the expertise and tools of a professional. The test drive should tell you if the car is good enough to warrant paying a mechanic to give it a thorough check. It is also a nice way to test a few different models and compare them.
Where to buy a used car in Singapore?
At a reputable dealership, if possible. There are several reasons for this. When buying a used car, you are looking for a seller on whose business ethics you can count on. Their reputation means a lot more to them than trying to make a quick buck through dishonest means.
They would also like to see you again for servicing and buying your next vehicle and they are controlled by the law more than private sellers.
Similarly, they often offer special warranties, servicing and even their own financing options. This last feature is especially important if you cannot get a loan from a bank.
This does not mean you should completely exclude private sellers but make sure to do your due diligence before committing.
If you are buying from a private seller, make sure you are familiar with the forms required for a proper sales process ie. sales agreement form, insurance, loans, transfer fee, M01 form, hand-over form, etc.
You can learn more about the transfer process here.
Buying a ‘lemon’ due to you not doing the necessary due diligence is a real pain and one that can haunt you for a long time, especially with our car prices, so do your best to follow the advice from this article, buy from a respected seller and use the help of professionals both for car inspection and paperwork.