Malaysia Car Market News and Guides

Second-hand Car Buying Guide

20 Oct 2015

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Compared to buying a new car, a used car can be a real bargain. You can get the comfort and the, and knock off a substantial amount from the price. According to the Malaysian Automotive Association approximately 600,000 new cars have been getting registered on our roads every single year. The Nielsen Global Survey of Automotive Demand estimates that 93% of all Malaysian households own a car, and that number is the highest among nations in Southeast Asia followed by Philippines at 47%. Not only that, it is estimated 54% of households in Malaysia have more than 1 car. Suffice to say, you will be spoilt for choice in the 2nd hand market. Nielsen’s survey also figured that 88% of Malaysian car owners would like to upgrade their vehicles when financially able. From the figures above, we’re able to say with relative certainty that there is a booming market for buying and selling 2nd hand cars.

Complete Service History!


It would be good advice to tell potential purchasers to avoid all cars without a full service history. A good history would show regular 5k maintenance and major maintenance works done at 20,000 or 25,000 milestones. Chunks of service history missing could spell trouble for you as a buyer. Here in Malaysia, a PUSPAKOM inspection is mandatory before ownership of a vehicle can be transferred to another person, and that should give you some peace of mind. However, there are numerous reported cases of corruption in Malaysia where PUSPAKOM inspections are haphazardly passed.

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Checking the automotive fluids! It is normal practice to pop the hood and get your hands dirty, so don’t be shy. All oil levels should be between its minimum and maximum marker. Circle 1 is for brake fluids, normally brake fluids are clear with a tint of yellow; brown would warrant concern and black is a bad. Circle 2 is the engine oil dipstick, pull out the stick, wipe it clean, and dip it back in. Circle 3 is the windscreen washer reservoir, so that you don't get confused. Circle 4 is for the radiotor.

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Tyres with a threading of less than 3mm of depth is telling you that new tyres would be needed soon. Tyres with threads that are less than 2mm in depth would be a hazard to drive. Take that cost into account when bargaining to get a better price, or better yet, just have them replace the tyres if that’s the only pickle in the deal. Also note that if you see uneven tyre wear among the wheels, it could indicate a misaligned steering. If a car's wheel arch has been involved in an accident, it is nigh impossible to get a repaired arch to be identical with the rest.

odometer tampering


A determined and experienced fraudster would do this impeccably and it will prove very difficult to say a rollback happened with absolute certainty. Your common sense would need to take point when it comes to detecting a rollback. A good way is to cross reference the number on the odometer with the service history. Obviously, if the history says new tyres 5,000 kilometers ago, and here you are looking at totally worn tyres, know that something’s up and just walk away.

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Next, we want to take a close look at the exterior and paintwork. The picture above is a good example of ripples caused by an accident. Look for this sort of ripples if someone claims their car is accident free. Check for signs of repair by jacking the car and look for suspicious welding and/or cracks underneath. The underbody is one of those places people tend to skimp, so do your homework. Uneven ride height might indicate that the vehicle has been an accident. Other common hotspots to cover are the car pillars, and car alignment. A bent chassis can be hard to spot, but it will not go straight no matter how you align the wheels. Open up the trunk and remove the carpeting to check for signs of rear damage, this is also another hotspot because reconditioners would be counting on the carpet to conceal the damage. Finally, just run when you see signs of creeping rust.

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A final tip; a seasoned mechanic/bodyworker would be a very good companion on your quest for a good bargain. Chat up your mechanic next time you bring in your vehicle for maintenance, and see if he will lend you his expertise for a cup of coffee or a small fee. You’d be surprised at how friendly mechanics can be!

Buying a second hand car is by no means an easy process. There are plenty of people in the industry looking to make a quick buck; and frankly, some of them care a lot more about their sales figures than your safety or satisfaction. It’s up to you to be a responsible buyer and cover the bases yourself. It is very much possible to have an almost new car at a 20-30% discount, if you take the time to learn the ropes. This is by no means a definitive guide, but it is an excellent starting point.

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This guide is written by Wen.Kheng. Send message to this author for further discussion on this article.