Shortlist, choose, budget: A guide to buying a pre-owned car

Finding the right one requires comparison and legwork but it is not as daunting as it sounds

For pre-owned cars, various factors such as condition of the car and mileage come into play. PHOTO: WEARNES PRE-OWNED

With the current Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices, some car buyers might be looking past new rides to the value readily available in the pre‑owned vehicle market. These cars may have had previous owners, but there are gems aplenty if one is savvy in picking them out.

Costs, too, are far more reasonable, albeit for shorter periods of ownership.

Admittedly, pre-owned cars are still significant investments and it is wise to approach buying one with some measure of caution especially for those unfamiliar with what to look out for when assessing a ride.

To bridge that gap and to make the selection process easier, here is a list of essentials to know, and things to look out for.

Think about it

As you consider the makes and models that catch your fancy, do get familiar with the common terms bandied about that may influence the price of your dream car.

Do your research and find out about the definition of common terms and phrases such as PARF and COE cars. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

In particular, the difference between PARF (Preferential Additional Registration Fee) and COE cars – the former refers to cars under 10 years old and are entitled to PARF rebates off the car’s open market value if it gets deregistered early, while the latter are cars above 10 years of age, and have had their COEs renewed.

To that end, Mr Eugene Chng, managing director at Cosmo Automobiles, advises buyers to think hard about the time frame of their ownership of the car.

“If it’s a short-term drive, older cars with a remaining COE life of less than five years would have a lower rate of depreciation (and cheaper cost). The opposite applies for a longer term drive,” he says.

Make a shortlist

Arguably the most enjoyable part of the process is shortlisting your ideal make and model with your budget, preferences and lifestyle needs.

Draft a shortlist of your dream make and model and do compare prices. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

For models that are more common on the roads, you will have more choices at competitive prices for comparison.

Maintenance too will be relatively easier as spare parts would be easier
to find.

Consider the details

Besides browsing the pre-owned listings online, make it a point to visit dealerships, and arrange viewings so that you can find out more about your potential purchase.

Mr Dennis Lim, general manager of Wearnes Pre-Owned, says: “Things to look out for in a pre-owned car include: No visible damage to the car, a thorough record of servicing history from an authorised agent, low mileage and a conservative number of previous owners.”

Viewing a car that looks as good as the day it was driven out of the showroom makes it an enticing proposition.

The odd scratch or ding is inevitable with regular use, but look out for larger dents and areas with uneven paintwork, or mismatched fixtures which may suggest a past incident.

Service records give an overview of how regularly a car has had servicing as part of regular maintenance.

It is a plus, and not to mention peace of mind, if the car has been consistently taken care of by its authorised dealer.

A lower mileage is highly sought-after because it generally indicates that a car has experienced less wear and tear.

And with fewer previous owners, chances of the car being involved in accidents and racking up high mileage are much lower.

Take your dream car out for a spin to check if it's running smoothly without odd noises. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

A good practice is to take the car for a test drive and put it through its paces.

It should handle well without any weird sensation with its steering, accelerate smoothly, and brake well without any odd sounds.

Still unsure? If you prefer some professional assurance, then Mr Adrian Lee, sales and purchasing manager at Car Choice Singapore, has this to suggest: “Consider having the car evaluated by a workshop or by STA Inspection to get a true sense of the car’s condition before purchase.”

Dollars and sense

All things considered, the price quoted for the pre-owned car in your sights has to be a sensible one, and fall within your budget.

Keeping strictly to your budget is a sensible thing for all car owners to do. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

There are no two ways to doing your sums and the necessary homework – comparing prices online, and at the dealerships. But beware: If a quoted price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“Tell-tale signs of a deal that’s too good to be true include a price lower than average for the car of choice, super-low interest rates, or an overtrade for your car far higher than others,” says Mr Lee.

What really helps is purchasing from a reputable dealer. Not only does it give you peace of mind, such companies also offer a warranty on the cars they sell, to help you take care of any reliability issues.

Take Performance Premium Selection Limited and Sime Darby Auto Selection, for instance. All pre-owned cars undergo rigorous mechanical inspection to ensure they are in pristine condition before making their way into the showroom, says Mr Christopher Chin, the managing director of both dealerships.

He shares: “You may want to consider the dealership’s reputation, reliability of their aftersales service, and if your assigned sales representative is able to show that they have your best interest at heart.”

Cars@Expo 2022 is held from Aug 13 to 14 at Singapore Expo Halls 3B and 4 from 10am to 8pm. Click here to read more about the latest cars and special deals at the show. 

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