How do I pick a good used car to buy?

Thursday November 7 2019


By Paul Kaganzi

Hi Paul, my name is Solomon. I have Shs4million and I want to buy a used Toyota Corona ST190 ‘Kibina’. Please advise.

Hello Solomon, rule of thumb: You must assume that every used car on the market has a problem its current owner is trying to run away from. It could be a small problem such as wanting to upgrade to a more comfortable or efficient car or a very big problem such as a bad engine, gearbox or post-accident repair job. Be weary of the very attractive price deals.

Your critical areas to look at are four; engine condition, gearbox condition, major accident record and legitimate ownership by the seller. The rest are fixable issues that come with the territory.

Engine condition has three critical areas: Check condition of lubrication system to rule out burning of engine oil during combustion due to bad piston rings which cause oil leak into the engine.

Check the engine cooling system to ensure that the car is not over heating due to a damaged cylinder head or gasket or any other causes. Confirm that engine oil and coolant don’t mix. Run the engine and check for blue or white smoke which may suggest any of the above conditions. Your car’s engine is very expensive to repair. Check the gearbox carefully especially if it’s an automatic. Inspect condition of the oil and if it smells burnt, it may be damaged.

A road test helps to confirm suspicion. A walk around the car by an expert mechanic will help to reveal if there are signs of major accident repair. A car that has been through a major accident repair may not have integrity to protect you and all your passengers in the next unlikely event of a collision or rollover.


It’s important to confirm that the car you are buying is from a seller holding title of ownership and that there are no incumbrances or contestations to title of logbook such as mortgages or part payments from previous owners etc.

A check at URA registration department will help. The other maintenance issues cannot be a deal breaker.