Buying your next car? Buy with your head, not your heart.
First hand experience of the grim reality of buying a bad car, when you've rushed into it and how you can avoid this.
Buying a new car is always a fun experience because it is something different, I for one couldn't wait for the new journeys that awaited with whatever car I was going to choose! However, this experience can turn a bit sour if you don't get it right and here is why you should always be careful, when buying a used car.
It's Nice and Shiny!
Starting to think about buying a new car is always a great feeling, going on the classifieds and seeing what is around just adds to that excitement. For one, I wanted a MK7 Ford Fiesta Zetec S, I remember these being parked outside my local Ford dealer around 2011 and every time I was driven to school, there they were, gleaming! So, when it got to the time where I wanted to get rid of my Focus, the cogs started turning and I found myself searching high and low for the right one. For some reason, all the cars I've owned up to now have been blue, so this really was something that I had to have on this Fiesta. I'd already chosen which spec I wanted because the 1.6s in the Zetec S are a great reliable engine as well as the Zetec S looking the part too, with it's bad boy kit and sporty alloys, it looks as fast as it corners!
So, where did it all go wrong? First off, if you're unsure what you're looking for or you just don't trust your own judgement, I'd always buy from a trusted dealer or get a vehicle inspections check before committing to the purchase. This is a better way of buying a car because if something does go vastly wrong with the after purchasing, you're not in such a bad situation, there's always means and ways to sort the issues. In addition to this, it also gives you peace of mind that you are buying the correct car. Did I do this? Nope! The thing that I did wrong was looking for the right car but at a low price, alarm bells should have been ringing because Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace aren't always the most reputable places to buy cars from.
Found The Right One?
You've found the right one and now it's time go look at it, right? Wrong! Do your research! Before looking or committing to any car it is always a great idea to go look at a few others first, don't waste the sellers time but asking for a look around beforehand isn't a bad thing. Another idea is to go on the internet and research specific issues with the car you're looking at, even the little things are always good to know because they turn into bargaining tools if you are wanting to commit to the purchase. Finally, check the car itself. MOT history checks are available to view on the Government website totally free as well as doing a car history check, which is around £15 for a decent one. This will give you all the information on the car and also gives you a small insight if it is the correct one to buy.
Did I do this? Yes! Even when I bought the £500 Focus, I did all these checks. The previous MOTs on the Fiesta looked alright and nothing bad stood out to me on either the MOT checks or vehicle checks, this meant I wasn't too concerned when going to look at the car I later bought. Beware, this gives you some insight but doesn't show up a few things. A MOT is only a limited test and some aspects of the vehicle isn't looked at, so again a good look around the vehicle is the best idea. As well as this, an online car check won't always show up accident damage, even if it has been in one. This is due to the owner not going through the insurance to fix the vehicle when it was involved in an accident - something to bare in mind.
Looking and Purchasing The Car
This is the hardest part, because it is the time you're likely to commit to the car. Sadly though, you really can get carried away. When wanting a certain car, you're much more likely to go in there with rose tinted glasses - this is something to avoid. Talking from experience now, I went to go look at the Fiesta and on first glance it looked great! The metallic blue shining in the sun, that body kit looking brilliant and the fact I was so close to owning a car I've wanted for a while. However, I was also happy to overlook a few issues, looking back now I remember a few small details which should have been a bit of a warning sign; lacquer peel on the rear quarter, a dent in the bonnet, a few parts of trim missing and the odd smell in the interior. If a car hasn't really been cared for, it is likely to be in a slightly neglected condition and that should give you some indication that you aren't buying the correct vehicle. For example, if a car doesn't have parts of trims or it seems a bit rough around the edges, it is unlikely the previous owner has really serviced or maintained the vehicle to a decent enough standard - always check for service history too!
At the time, I was 20, so I couldn't really get the insurance to test drive the vehicle, but the seller was happy to take me out. Again, this is a no go! Always test drive a vehicle yourself and if you can't, take someone who can. Having someone with you who isn't excited/interested in the car as much as you, are more likely to see/hear/smell things that you'll miss. During the test drive, it felt peppy from the rev happy 1.6 and changed direction like one of the red arrows, it felt brilliant from the passenger seat! And so, it was done. I'd put a deposit down and walked away happy - how wrong I was.
The Very Bad.
It was a week before I changed the insurance over from my Focus to the Fiesta as it was cheaper to wait, which I was happy to do. And as you do, the minute the clock turned midnight, I went for a drive! It was quite different as you'd expect, but this is where I started noticing a few details that were a bit off, but not to worry as I could sort these little niggles. A few days after this was when I started noticing that the car wasn't 100%. I was first out with my family just getting some stuff from the shops and driving between shops I'd noticed some knocking from the steering/suspension. Around the same time, I'd also serviced the car myself but in the engine bay I had discovered some glass on top of the inlet, this was odd because the car had it's original windscreen. What the hell was going on?
I'd decided to contact a trusted ex Ford mechanic I'd previously went to for the Focus' repairs and servicing. I was hoping he could see what was wrong, turns out it was more wrong than I could ever anticipate. The knock from the steering seemed to be the steering rack which was fair enough because it was a higher mileage car, but then he broke the rest of the news to me. Working with Fords for such a long time, he's definitely the person who can smell a rat, but that was an understatement. One of the front wheels seemed to be sitting further back than the other due to a misaligned subframe as well as one having positive camber and the other negative. Couple this in with the fact that it seemed like the car had a new engine put in, it makes sense as to why there was glass in the engine bay, it wasn't from the Fiesta I'd bought, but another Fiesta and transplanted in.
I'd sold it on and I'd told the buyer everything that was wrong with it, obviously made a loss but I couldn't really afford to fix it at the time. He was happy to take it and I know he's done the repairs and is currently using the car daily now. It made me happy in the sense because it did have potential after knowing what the issues were, but I simply couldn't do it.
It's a shame because the whole experience left a sour taste and I just wanted to get rid of it in the end, hence why I still have the Focus. I'm not even sure why I wanted to get rid of the Focus because after this experience, it seem to appreciate how good it actually is. So, take it from me. Do every bit of research, be wary about everything with the car and if there is a small hint of doubt about it, walk away. This isn't a proud story, but it was an experience and one I'll never forget. I am in the market for a new car currently, but I'm very careful now and I hope you will be too.