Buying a used car this winter

Oh the weather outside is frightful…

...And if you are thinking of buying a used car this winter then look no further for some helpful buyers advice

Nippy out, isn’t it? While the snow and ice of recent winters hasn’t hit us this year (yet) there’s no doubt that it’s chilly, wet and dark much of the time. It’s at times like this when you remember that Ireland sits at a higher latitude than New York City or even Newfoundland. Whatever about Viking history, we’re far closer to being Scandinavian thanks to sheer geography.
Now, you would think that spending all our lives on a damp, cold, wet rock sticking out of the North Atlantic would have been adequate preparation for dealing with our cars in the winter, but for some cussed reason, we Irish seem to think that we're actually a lost band of Mediterraneans, so we do tend to ignore the little tips and tricks that can make November-December-January (and a bit of February) a better time for buying.
Buying a used car in the depth of winter? Yes, why not? It’s as good a time as any to buy, and in fact better in some cases. How so?
winter-picWell, for a start, coming up to Christmas, car dealers will be anxiously awaiting the hoped-for flood of new customers in January, when the new number plates arrive; which means that right now, they’re just ticking over and not moving much stock. That makes it an ideal time to strike, and to drive a good bargain. Watch dealer forecourts carefully as the month winds to a close and keep an eye out for pre-registered cars, as car importers put pressure on dealers to put plates on cars to bump up the monthly sales figures at the last moment. You could be looking at anything up to €5,000 off the sticker price for a car with, effectively, zero mileage.
When you’re buying second hand, aside from getting a thorough history check from there are a few hints and tips to make your life easier. For a start, bring a towel or an old coat both to kneel down and lie on – that way you won’t get filthy when inspecting the underside of the car. It’s actually not a bad idea to bring another towel to protect the inside of the car from your muddy feet – an action that will certainly endear you to the seller.
Speaking of feet, if you’re wearing hefty winter boots, bring along some sneakers to change in to for the test drive. Heavy shoes can dampen the sensations coming up from the car and you can miss those tell-tale little vibrations through the pedals which tell you that something might be wrong. Likewise, never ever keep your gloves on when testing a car.
Do keep your coat on though, at least until you’ve checked the air conditioning. That way you can be confident that it’s cooling the cabin properly. Then take your coat off, get out for a moment until you feel the cold, hop back in and test the heating.
Finally, given the slippery nature of Irish roads, it’s best in the winter to do any brake testing (a vital component of any test drive) to wide open spaces such as an empty car park or some such. There’s just too much chance of sliding into a hedge if you try it on a cold, wet road.
Many people have taken to fitting winter tyres in recent years, so make sure you check and see if the test car is wearing them. Not only is it an important part of the deal to find out if the tyres (and their summer cousins) are part of the deal, the car will also drive somewhat differently on winters than it does on conventional tyres, so it’s important to bear that in mind.
Oh, and a final tip. Make sure you have a decent pair of sunglasses. Really? In Ireland, in the winter? Yes. That low winter sun can come blasting in through the windscreen like Goldfinger's laser so get yourself a good pair of sunglasses with polarised lenses. You'll see much more clearly with them and they'll also help to dim that 'strobing' effect when driving along a tree-lined road.
Got all that? Right so. See you in the January sales. I'll bring the snow shoes, you bring the Huskies...
Happy Christmas from all at Motorcheck and wishing all our customers and friends a prosperous 2014!