A successful secondhand buy isn’t just about purchasing a solid vehicle at a good price, it’s also about selecting the right tool for your application.
What are your needs?
One of the biggest mistakes second-hand buyers make is to purchase what they can afford, instead of what they need. As mentioned last month, you can often find great deals on large, luxurious SUVs on the used market, but it’s important to fight that fear of missing out on a great deal. Before buying a vehicle, take some time to assess your needs. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a used SUV or 4×4.
What do I want to spend?
Decide exactly how much you want to spend. Consider the deposit you will put down, the monthly instalments, the cost of insuring the vehicle and what you’ll be paying for fuel on a monthly basis. Find a figure you’re comfortable with and stick to it. Don’t let a great deal lure you into spending more than you actually can or want to.
How long will I keep it?
It’s important to consider how long you plan to keep the vehicle. Firstly, this will have an impact on your payment period. Don’t pay it off over six years if you’ll only be keeping it for three. Chances are, you’ll still owe too much after three years to actually sell the vehicle. Secondly, certain vehicles are better long-term buys than others. A tough and basic 4×4 can last for decades, but you don’t want to own a sophisticated SUV with three turbos for too long. These vehicles can be great when new, but can become risky to own when they’re more than a decade old.
How much space do I need?
Most of us are tempted to buy the biggest vehicle we can afford, but you need to ask yourself if you’ll really use all that space. If you’re into overlanding, a spacious SUV or double cab is great, but if you’ll be spending most of your time around town, a smaller vehicle is more practical and easier to live with. For most people, a compact SUV makes more sense than a large luxury SUV.
Where will I be spending most of my time?
A pukka 4×4 looks cool, but it can be a hassle to live with on a daily basis. Before buying, consider what you’ll be doing with the vehicle most of the time. Find a vehicle that suits your needs. You probably don’t want to use a Cruiser to sit in Sandton traffic every day. At the same time, you don’t want to explore the Namib or Kaokoveld in a softroader.
Do I need a 4x4 system?
It’s tempting to buy a bakkie or SUV with a 4×4 system, but the fact of the matter is, the vast majority of people with 4×4s never make use of these capabilities. If you won’t be spending a lot of time on dirt and off-road trails, it’s perhaps best to buy a 2WD vehicle. Remember, an unused system is nothing more than a liability that can result in a large repair bill.
Do I need low-range gearing?
Unless you’ll be doing some serious off-roading, low-range gearing is probably not necessary. Once again, this is a complex system that can result in a hefty repair bill, so don’t buy a vehicle with low-range unless you need it. If you’ll be tackling 4×4 trails, a transfer case is crucial. If you’ll be sticking to tar, though, it only adds unnecessary weight and complexity.
What engine/gearbox do I need?
You need to consider the best engine/gearbox combo for your application. If the vehicle is a daily driver destined for heavy traffic, a small and frugal engine with decent low-down grunt is a good buy. Similarly, an automatic gearbox is great for traffic, but if you’re into off-roading, you might prefer the control and engine compression that a manual shifter offers. Planning on doing a lot of overlanding? A turbodiesel probably offers the best compromise between performance and economy.
What are my essentials?
Before shopping around, make a list of your must-have items. These could include a large luggage area, a full-size spare wheel, multiple airbags, traction control or excellent fuel economy. Stick to your list and don’t let a great deal allow you to lose focus.
Above: A pukka off-roader is a great buy, provided you’re actually planning on tackling offroad trails. Buy a vehicle that suits your needs. Below: As the man behind RFS Auto – which buys and sells tested and inspected used vehicles – Chris du Plooy knows the second-hand market.