Hi Paul,
Iam considering buying my first used car. What are the important points I should have in mind when making this important decision?

Buying a used car is a global as well as a local phenomenon for both new and long time motorists. The average Ugandan buys a used car because there is a wider choice and bigger bargaining and price negotiating leverage in the buyer’s favour.
A used car enjoys lower insurance premiums as well as avoiding the costly 20-30% depreciation in the value of brand new cars.

There are important considerations to address when choosing the right car. How much you are willing to spend and whether the car running costs will fit in your monthly budget.

Priority should be given to whether the choice of car meets your current needs rather than wants. How many people do you anticipate carrying regularly and what type of journeys you usually cover (highway or urban commuting).

What would be the resale value of a car when you are ready to buy another one. These issues should influence the size, cost and detailed specifications of your choice of used car. Save money by not buying a trendy car.
The value of some used cars is influenced by their popularity on the car market. There is a high premium to pay for a popular used car which everyone else wants despite the fact that there may be other overlooked models which may have the same aesthetic and mechanical condition, reliability, mileage and performance.

Research about your choice of a used car. Get to know the current prices, full specifications particularly the standard and optional features. Get as much vehicle history as possible for the car you choose.

Look out for discrepancies in vehicle identification number or mileage reversal which distorts service history. Ask for the vehicle service history where it is available or check for the last engine service tag.

You can request import certification or check with Uganda Revenue authority or any other relevant authorities to certify the legitimacy of registration and the absence of pending taxes or unpaid city council parking fees.
Insist on a technical inspection report by an independent mechanic where possible. Look out for attempts to conceal a serious accident history. Check that the seams (lines) where the boot, bonnet and doors close are properly aligned and even as a sign of no prior major accident repair.

Check the engine oil filler neck for engine oil sludge or particles and use the dipstick to confirm oil and engine condition.

Use a dipstick to check automatic transmission oil colour and look out for a burnt smell which suggests internal gearbox clutch damage.
A test drive will confirm whether transmission delays to shift or slips in gear as well as the condition of the car’s suspension. Once you are satisfied you can close the deal.
Examine the formal sales documentation and payment details. All negotiated terms of the car purchase including the specifications and features ought be reflected on a written formal offer by the seller.

Use a law firm to draw a car sales agreement mutually agreeable to you and the seller with all the car details and terms of payment agreed upon. Payment should be processed upon completion of signing the agreement in accordance with agreed terms.

Hi Paul,
I acquired a Noah 2002 at 64,000km and now its at 70,000Kms, there are no records to suggest whether these fluids have ever been changed and when I asked a friend who has been driving for some good time he suggested that I top up and not a complete change.

When should I change the coolant, brake fluid, and steering fluid?

Hello Ronald, car maintenance history is crucial for confirming whether the regular checks and services have been carried out in accordance with the manufacturer maintenance schedule.

The schedule will recommend when you should change vital fluids and lubricants. Let’s talk about engine coolant, brake fluid and steering fluid.

Engine coolant is designed with chemicals which lubricate the water pump, help to dampen heat as well as prevent corrosion in the cooling system.

Frequent heating and cooling of coolant fluid makes it corrosive as well as reduces effectiveness of the performance additives this leads to damage of vital cooling system components such as the water pump, radiator and thermostat.

Coolant ought to be changed every two years. Brake fluid is designed with chemicals to cool down and lubricate the brake system. It is also primarily used to provide hydraulic pressure which actuates the brakes ( piston and pad system).

Overtime, brake fluid builds up moisture which can be more than three per cent in two to four years. This leads to corrosion as well as leads to vacuum pockets in the brake fluid lines.

These prevent instantaneous braking. Contaminated or aged brake fluid may cause corrosion damage to brake lines, master cylinder and piston as well as the ABS unit.
A renewal of all the brake fluid is recommended every 3-4 years especially if you don’t use the long life synthetic fluid.

A visual inspection will also confirm need to service brake fluid. Steering fluid helps to lubricate and also provides similar protection against corrosion and seizure to the steering system.

It is crucial to know the correct grade of oil to use. If you have just acquired a 70,000 km Noah I would suggest you carry out the detailed service B which checks all fluids, belts, filters, serviceable parts and start your own car service history.