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Seven mistakes to avoid when buying a car

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A used BMW, a brand-new VW or perhaps a SEAT? You can find your dream car in no time at all on the Internet, but not every cheap car is a bargain. Hidden defects can quickly ramp up the cost and make you regret your purchase.  Read on to find out what you need to watch out for when buying online and why it’s essential to see a car for yourself and take if for a test drive. 

The most important thing to remember is not to be taken in by pretty pictures or a low price. You can’t tell what damage a car has when viewing it online, and the devil is in the detail.

Always go and see a car for yourself – here are our tips:

Mistake no. 1: not wanting to miss a unique opportunity

Found your dream car and worried it could be snapped up quickly? Take care. The choice of new and used cars available online is endless. Deciding in haste without making a serious comparison will rarely work in your favor. Give yourself plenty of time to look for the right car – there are more coming onto the market every single day. Work out exactly what kind of vehicle you really need, don’t just go straight for the looks and brand you like at the lowest possible price.

Mistake no. 2: thinking you know prices

Buying a car online sounds easy and straightforward, but don’t forget to compare market prices for your chosen model. There are various ways to do this, including online marketplaces like AutoScout24 and comparison sites like Comparis. AutoScout24 allows you to compare the price of your chosen car with those of similar cars to see how fair it is. You need to be especially careful when it comes to really low prices. If a bargain seems too good to be true, there’s probably a catch.

Mistake no. 3: buying without viewing

Never buy a car you haven’t seen for yourself. Viewing a car is the only way to tell if it’s genuinely as good as the ad claims. Any used car can be made to look good in photos and videos. The weather also plays an important role in a viewing as scratches on the paintwork are harder to spot in bad weather.

Mistake no. 4: buying a car on your own

Always take someone with you to a viewing – four eyes can see more than two. While you talk to the salesperson, the other person can look the car over for visible defects and offer their opinion. This makes it easier for you to act on your gut feeling.

Mistake no. 5: not bothering with a thorough inspection

It’s important to read the signs carefully when you view a car. If it hasn’t been washed, that’s a bad sign. It’s harder to see rust, dents, and damaged paintwork on an unwashed car. Take a look at the tires, they can tell you a lot about the car’s condition. Are they inflated to the right pressure? Do they have enough tread left? Are they evenly worn? This could give clues as to whether the car has been in an accident. 

You should also inspect the interior thoroughly. Is the wear and tear in line with the mileage, or does the interior look badly worn despite a low mileage figure? If the interior smells bad or the floor is damp, there may be a leak somewhere on the car that needs to be fixed urgently – electronic components can malfunction if they get wet. Be sure to check whether the electric mirrors and seat adjustment work as well. 

This may sound excessive, but you really need to be as thorough as possible. Our checklist takes you step by step through everything you need to bear in mind when buying a car:

Download: checklist for buying a used car

This checklist has been put together for you by the legal experts at AXA-ARAG. 

Mistake no. 6:  not caring about a car’s history

Looks and price aren’t the only deciding factors when you buy a car. Details that say something about its roadworthiness are much more important. Age and mileage give you a good idea of its condition, but it’s perhaps even more vital to know when the car was last inspected. If the motor vehicle inspection (MFK) certificate is out of date, you should think long and hard about buying the car or agree to buy it only after it has passed the inspection. You should also check the log book. If it’s been filled in properly, it shows that the car has been serviced regularly and when the last major service with oil change was done.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the car’s history. Who has owned it? Has it been used privately or for work? The seller is legally obligated to tell you about any accident damage, but not minor damage like small scratches, scrapes or dents.

Mistake no. 7: not taking a test drive before you buy

The test drive is crucial to any successful car purchase. It allows you to find out whether the car performs as claimed and whether it’s suited to you. It’s important to ensure that the car hasn’t been warmed up ready for you. That way, you can listen for any strange noises when starting from cold. Turn off the radio on your test drive so you can hear whether the engine splutters or the brakes squeak. Rattles and buzzing sounds are also bad signs.

Allow yourself plenty of time for the test drive. Don’t just drive into town quickly, test the car on the highway as well. The really serious problems will only become apparent at high speeds. Pay attention to how the car behaves when you accelerate sharply. Does it pull to one side, even though you’re driving straight ahead? How do the gearshift and the brakes feel?

As long as you’ve covered all the important points, you can trust your gut feeling to some extent. Good luck finding your ideal car!

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