Whether this is your first car or your second, it seems like purchasing a used car never gets any easier. While you are hoping to get the best deal possible and get on the road as soon as possible, you’re still after something reliable and safe, and not a complete lemon.
As you would expect, buying a used 4WD is much like buying a second-hand car; however, there are a few different factors you’ll need to consider before signing the papers.
To ensure you don’t end up purchasing a vehicle riddled with hidden problems, we’ve created a list of questions you need to ask before buying a second-hand 4WD.
1. What do you plan to do with your 4WD?
The 4×4 you end up buying will highly depend on what you plan to do with it. Is it just your daily ride to get you from point A to B in the burbs, carry materials to and from the worksite, or are you a weekend warrior planning to conquer hectic off-road tracks? Before you drop a small fortune, consider the following to help narrow down your search:
- Petrol or diesel?
- Automatic or manual?
- Are you planning to tow a caravan or boat?
- On-road vs off-road
- 4×4 tracks or long distance/remote areas?
2. Have you checked the underbody for damage?
The inside and outside check out but have you inspected the underbody? Most 4×4 owners take their rigs off-road, so it pays to see the condition underneath. Look out for any shiny spots; this is usually an indication there could be an oil leak.
Check exposed and easily damaged 4×4 parts such as the tail shaft, fuel tanks, exhaust pipes and steering shafts. Of course, make sure the engine is off and cold before touching anything. If the previous owner has installed underbody protection, look out for any significant dents or scratches.
3. Has the 4WD been in an accident?
First and foremost is to ask whether the vehicle has been in an accident. Unfortunately, not all previous owners will be completely honest, so it’s best to conduct a closer inspection of the bodywork. Stand behind the vehicle look down the sides of the vehicle for any uneven paint reflection, dents, or uneven surfaces which could indicate work done after an accident.
Run your hand around the bodywork of the 4×4 to see if all the panels align. Uneven panels could indicate it was replaced or in an accident. Avoid all 4WDs which have any indication of any accident or frame damage.
If parts have been replaced, ask if they were OEM, Genuine or aftermarket parts. If they are used 4WD parts, ask for receipts, where they were purchased from and if the parts have a warranty and how long for.
4. Have you inspected under the bonnet?
Perhaps the most crucial point to make is checking under the bonnet. Now if you aren’t very familiar with the engine bay, we highly recommend bringing a mechanic with you to ensure you don’t end up paying for the previous owner’s mistakes. The main concern is to look out for any leaks, particularly from the transmission, brakes, and critical engine components.
Remove the oil filter cap and check the dipstick; it should appear like a clean brown. If it turns out black, it hasn’t been changed in a long time. If there’s any foamy residue, this could be an indication of a leaking head gasket and should be avoided at all costs.
Inspect the condition of the coolant. If it’s a brown and grimy colour, this is a sign that it hasn’t been serviced in a while and also a possible leaking head gasket. Again, avoid at all costs. Keep an eye out for any signs of wear and tear, including cracks in hoses, rust, and dodgy DIY jobs.
5. Did you ask to see the logbook?
When was the last time the car was serviced? Rather than taking the owner’s word for it, ask to see the logbooks. Has the 4×4 been serviced regularly or only when something needed to be replaced? Take note of any major services and the dates they were completed. Avoid any vehicle that has not been regularly serviced as you will most likely be replacing and repairing worn out parts.
6. Are there any accessories?
Buying a rig already kitted out can save you from having to purchase your own. With that being said, are the 4WD accessories genuine or aftermarket?
Examine the condition of each accessory thoroughly, especially the custom bull bar if it is fitted with one, ask where they were purchased and if they still had the receipts.
7. Don’t forget to take it for a test drive
Last but not least, have you taken it for a spin? The test drive is the best time to get a feel for the vehicle and pick up on any red flags. Here’s what to look out for:
- Strange noises. When turning on the engine, thudding or rattling when turning the steering wheel on full lock, screeching brakes.
- Warning lights on the dash. If any lights appear, especially the check engine light, avoid at all costs.
- While driving. Is the vehicle responsive when you accelerate? Check that the gears shift smoothly. If it skips, jerks or makes a clunking noise, it could be the clutch or transmission.
- Does it steer to one side? If it steers to one side, it could need a wheel alignment and balance, or brand new tyres due to uneven wear.