After considering the time and money spent shopping for, buying, and maintaining a used car, it should come as no surprise that, for many of us, buying a used car could be the second-biggest purchase that we’ll ever make. Clearly, transportation is important, whether for family or for work, but transportation doesn’t take care of itself. Buying a used car is merely the start of a hopefully long, relationship.
Brand and Equipment
One small part of that long relationship has to do with the brand. Typically, better brands are more expensive because they are made from better parts. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” that is, if you buy cheap up front, you can expect to pay for it later. In the case of used cars, you can expect to spend far more money maintaining and repairing a cheap car than if you had bought a slightly-more-expensive car to begin with.
Another small part of that long relationship starts with buying a properly equipped used car. For example, you don’t need to buy a half-tonne pickup for family transportation, but you could. The family might not be entirely comfortable, but the truck could handle it. On the other hand, you wouldn’t buy a sedan or an MPV to haul lumber, as it simply isn’t designed for that kind of abuse. When buying a used car, consider how you expect to use it, and purchase something designed for the task at hand.
A Longterm Relationship
By far, the biggest part of having a long relationship with your new used car is maintenance. The first thing you should do with your used car purchase, preferably within the first week, is to bring it to your trusted automobile technician. Paying him for an hour of his time to take a good look at your used car can help to expose problems that you may not even be aware of yet. If it hasn’t already been done, change the engine oil and the oil filter, as well as the transmission and differential fluids, depending on mileage and condition. One might do well with a new pair of wiper blades, engine air filter, and topping off critical fluids. Inspection of tires, brakes, suspension, steering should be tops on your list of things to check.
Additionally, if your used car came with a limited guarantee on certain parts, you’d need to catch these problems within a short period of time. For example, a blown headlight bulb should certainly be replaced, for safety and local law, but it may not be covered. On the other hand, a malfunctioning transmission might be covered. You’ll have to check the agreement that you signed to see if any of these provisions may apply.
Regular and proper maintenance is key to the longevity of your used car and should not be overlooked. For example, most modern automobile manufacturers suggest engine oil and filter changes every 7,500 km for regular driving habits. Some people have gotten into the habit of changing the engine oil “whenever I get around to it” or “when the engine oil turns black,” but they don’t realize the damage they’ve done to the engine. Properly maintained, engines made in the last fifteen years should not be burning oil, and some even top half-a-million kilometers before needing any major engine work.
“But,” you may say, “it costs money to change the oil every 7,500 km.” True, maintenance isn’t free, but maintenance is always cheaper than repair. Even if you opt for more-expensive synthetic oil, it will be cheaper than having an engine rebuilt. Toyota Motor Company, for example, builds their engines for a 400,000 km lifespan. If you change the oil “whenever you feel like it,” you will most likely be burning oil by the 100,000 km mark, and the engine will be ruined by the 200,000 km mark. You’ll spend a lot of money on a new or rebuilt engine. On the other hand, sticking to a regular 7,500 km engine oil and oil filter replacement interval, you would spend about half as much on maintenance and get twice as many miles out of your engine.
While regular maintenance should help prevent problems that you can’t readily see, being an observant driver can help you to prevent minor problems from turning into major ones. Pay attention to abnormal noises and vibrations and talk to your trusted technician about them. For example, if your belts squeak in the rain, perhaps they need to be adjusted to prevent them from slipping. However, if you don’t get them adjusted, they’ll wear out faster and you’ll have to replace them, which would be more expensive. If you wait too long, you could end up stranded when the belts finally fail.
Another example might be looseness in the steering gear, which may present itself as vehicle wandering or clunkiness. The repair could be as simple as replacing loose tie-rod end and a front-end alignment, but failure to address this in time to result in expensive repairs. Tires may wear out prematurely, or the tie-rod could separate, resulting in an accident.
Nothing Lasts Forever
It is absolutely true that nothing lasts forever. However, with proper care, even used cars can last for a long time without extensive repairs. It does require a little planning, which you can make with the help of your trusted technician and the maintenance manual from the manufacturer, but the investment is worthwhile.