Buying a second hand 4WD is very similar to purchasing any second hand vehicle, however extra precaution must be taken to ensure that the additional components of a 4WD are up to scratch. A bit of extra time and research is generally required to ensure your decision is sound and you don’t end up with a substandard vehicle. Some people get caught up in the emotions of buying a 4WD and feel attached to one vehicle or another, however it’s vital that you make your decision based on facts and figures alone.
To guide you in the right direction, today we’ll be shedding some insight by providing you with our top 7 buying tips for second hand 4WDs so you can feel confident in making the right decision.
The most influential step in the buying process is understanding how much money you can spend. Even second hand 4WDs fluctuate dramatically in price so calculating your budget allows you to narrow down your search to three or four models which suit your requirements. You’ll also need to account for other features that you need such as a tow bar if you plan on boating or other accessories which you’ll need to purchase after you’ve bought your second hand 4WD.
Once you’ve got three or four models that fit within your budget, you can start researching what’s available. Obviously most second hand 4WDs are advertised online these days but don’t forget the older folks who still like to advertise in the newspaper and trading post. Your aim is to have an understanding of the type of 4WD that you can afford including the year, condition, and how many kilometres is on the speedo. You should also consider the availability of spare parts if certain models have common problems like the steering or transmission.
Inspect the chassis
To give you an accurate indication of the type of life the 4WD has had, check the chassis of the vehicle. You can get a decent picture of how much off-roading the vehicle’s done by seeing if there’s any rust below the vehicle and keep an eye out for any dents, scratches, dented diff housings, and broken bash plates. If you see any oil leaks then you know you’re going to run into problems soon enough! Also check for any cracks in the chassis, the springs, and the subframe in conjunction with checking for any chipping or abrasions on the inside of the tyres.
Check under the bonnet
You’ll know if the 4WD has done any heavy off-roading if you check under the bonnet and find considerable rust or corrosion. Inspect the engine for any leaks in critical components like the transmission and brakes. Check the coolant to ensure it’s not grimy or brown along with any wear and tear to crucial systems such as rust, cracking, and drying. Lastly, check for any foamy residue in the oil which is typically a sign of a leaking head gasket (and a major problem).
Inspect the exterior and interior
You can quite easily find signs of accidents, replacements, and body work by inspecting the exterior. Check for any cracks in the bumpers, have a look at the side panels for uneven paint, and closely inspect the surface for any indication of body work following an accident. Additionally, check the bolts for scratches which is an indicator of some adjustments or replacements. The interior of the 4WD will offer an excellent representation of how the previous owner looked after the 4WD (including the engine) so inspect the upholstery and ensure there’s no hanging visors or handles. If you discover a mouldy smell or silt in crevices, it’s likely that there has been some flood damage.
Check the service history
The service history is an important part of the vehicle, particularly if the owner wants to sell it for a good price! Have a look at the log book carefully and note any major issues or replacements the vehicle has had in the past. If the second hand 4WD doesn’t have a log book (or had irregular servicing) then it’s best not to purchase that particular vehicle simply because poor servicing typically leads to pre-mature damage and costly repairs.
Arguably the most important part of inspecting a second hand 4WD is taking it for a test drive. If it’s a manual, you’ll want to check that each gear shifts smoothly and quietly both before and after you’ve started the engine. Any excess smoke when you start the ignition is a warning sign and listen for any rattles or noises when the engine is cold (hot oil typically disguises any noises). If it’s an automatic, drive safely at different speeds and make sure the acceleration is smooth. You’ll also want to feel and listen for any knocks or clunks coming from the CV joints, differentials, and the driveshafts. Finally, don’t forget to inspect both high and low-range 4WD and make sure the diff locks are in decent condition.
You’ll typically find that most 4WDs are equipped with aftermarket products or accessories so it’s beneficial to ask to see the appropriate warranties and installation receipts. Any heavily modified 4WDs usually spends most of its time off-road so keep in mind they’ll have more wear and tear than your standard 4WDs. Lastly, always steer clear of 4WDs that have DIY modifications!
While the above tips serve as a solid foundation, keep in mind that you can always hire someone to perform a pre-purchase vehicle inspection for you. If you need any further advice or you’re interested in purchasing any 4WD products or accessories, get in touch with the professionals at TJM Australia by phoning their staff on 07 3865 9999.