Four things to do before go for a test drive

You’re 18 and you’ve just been given legal status by the powers that be. You rush out and on the second or third go (at best) you pass your driver’s license test. Finally, you’re independent. Or are you?

If you’re not fortunate enough to have the use of a car (Or if daddy hasn’t spoilt you), you’ll need to consider your transport options. Welcome to the adult world. We all know that public transport is a bit of a mare and, since most of us aren’t fitness befok, cycling is probably out of the question. That leaves us with little option but to invest those hard earned bucks into a motor vehicle. Here are a few tips to get you start, before you even get behind the wheel for a test drive.

1 Gumtree is the devil

While the sales site does have its moments, it’s mostly filled with scumbags, swashbucklers and scam artists, who can’t wait to hustle you out of your money. Be careful. And don’t be afraid to shop around. There are plenty of places online (far more reputable than Gumtree) that’ll give you access to hundreds of pre-owned cars in South Africa.

  1. Do your homework

Consider what you’ll be doing with the car; how far you’ll be travelling, the size of the vehicle, the model, added extras, and preferential appearance. Try not to set your heart on a specific make or model too early and have at least three options to choose from once you’ve shopped around. Car ads usually give a half decent synopsis of the vehicle, but it never hurts to follow up. Phone the owner and confirm that all the details are correct. And when you do go checkout prospective buys, be sure to take someone who knows cars.

  1. The body

When you do check the prospective car, make sure you do so during the day. Very few cars will be in perfect condition and a few chips and dents may actually indicate that the vehicle has never been involved in a serious accident. Mismatched colours and uneven spacing between panels could mean that the vehicle’s gone through more than a ‘fender bender’ or two. Uneven, smooth or ‘feathered’ (wire is peeking out from the rubber) is a good indication that the wheels are out of balance or alignment (do with this information what you will). Finally for the non-smokers among us, check the ash tray for ash and for goodness sake, give the inside of the car a sniff. If it smells rank, it’s usually a good indication that the owner hasn’t taken proper care of the vehicle. And rust? That’ll sit on your windscreen frame and crush your dreams.

  1. The engine

Give the car’s engine a brief once-over. You’ll quickly ascertain the level of attention the previous owner paid to it. If anything has begun collecting around the battery terminals, shut the bonnet and off you go: ‘Frosting’ is a telltale sign of poor maintenance. Start the car and rev the engine a few times. If blue smoke comes out the exhaust on startup, the car is not worth your time. Now listen to the engine. Do you hear those clanky noises? That’s the sound of an expensive repair.