Seeing is believing when buying a used car

What you need to know:

If you squash some of the myths or misconceptions you have about buying used, you will realise there are endless options available to you.

Buying a used car is a big decision. However, when it comes to buying a used car, people often raise their eyebrows and their face beams with a question mark; to buy a used car or not to buy? Not their fault, it is just that a lot of myths are doing the rounds. Let us start bursting them, one at a time.


Gender-based decisions on whether or not a vehicle is a good buy is rubbish. It makes sense to assume that a female driver will have driven and taken care of her car better than a reckless male, because women tend to be more fastidious about how they do things or how they maintain their property.

Do a random survey and ask any group of individuals to show you their mobile phones. What are the odds that a higher number of males will show you a barely functional plastic lump with a cracked screen held together by chewing gum and rubber bands? Very high.

It also makes sense that a man will have taken better care of his car because, by nature, we are fascinated by machines and engineering, and we tend to cherish our vehicles to such abnormal levels as plastering names on our chariots (Katya) and referring to them as “she” (Please stop doing this, fellow men. The next person to tell me, “She purrs nicely on idle” had better be talking about a woman with apnea and not a random, four-cylinder Japanese white good).


This is a thinly-veiled racist attribution to motor vehicle ownership, and it burns my fingertips having to type this out, but here goes, anyway. The Ugandan Asian community tends to be well-off in comparison to historical denizens. This translates to them living in nicer places with better roads, so they are less likely to break their cars, unlike the unfortunate lot which has to navigate its way through a waterlogged lunar landscape to get to their houses.

The inherent “wealthiness” of the Asian community means that they also have the pecuniary ability to take better care of their cars. We who occupy the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder push our cars until the transmission falls out from underneath and the engine gives up the ghost in a hissy fit and a cloud of steam. We then find the cheapest nearby mechanic who has access to the cheapest available parts dealer and then instigate an unstoppable chain of events that culminates in a tearful e-mail to the Nation Media Group with, “Dear Baraza, please help me” as the opening tag line.

An expatriate-owned vehicle is sold on the premise that the said expatriate drove a company car, so it was maintained from the company’s purse, which in most cases tends to be bottomless.

Mint condition

Finally, something inoffensive. Mint condition means “as good as new”; and this gives people a playing field with plenty of scope to bend the truth. It is a two-word summary for a thoroughly well-maintained vehicle, mileage notwithstanding, and it is possible even for cars that are 10 years old or more.

However, “mint condition” is a subjective term. For some, “ran when parked” means as good as mint, while for others, mint means flawless and able to withstand the harshest scrutiny under any powerful magnifying glass.

Fully loaded

“Fully loaded” is usually less than fully accurate because rarely will people spec their brand new cars with every available option, including those they did not need, and what you inherit in the nebulous pseudo-hand-me-down atmosphere of “previously cherished” hardware is fully dependent on the original owner and not you.

But then again, if you saw an ad saying “Mostly loaded”, you would be suspicious, wouldn’t you?

Very low mileage

Mileage is usually among the last things to check on a car you plan to buy from the pre-owned yard. You could be looking at a low mileage vehicle that looks like it just spent a rough week being pushed through Satan’s alimentary canal. The few miles it has might have been traumatic ones. What now?

Then again you might have a lovingly cared for example that was driven like it should have been and boasts large values in its odometer readout, but still runs like a dream. Which would you rather buy? I would buy the more decent but frequently used car, which is exactly what I did in January last year.

Never involved in an accident

 This one is fairly crucial, to be honest. Nobody wants a car that has been involved in an accident, and there are several good reasons for this:

a) The accident might have been serious enough to do some internal damage, such as twisting/bending the chassis or weakening the structure and the repairs were only cosmetic or not comprehensive enough to restore the frame back to factory condition. This makes the car either look odd from some angles, or if the plastic surgeon was expert enough, the car might look okay but is dangerous to drive or have another accident in.

b) The accident might be unresolved. Perhaps it was a hit-and-run, which means you are availing yourself of “hot” property. The police could be looking for you now, or worse still, the vehicle might have committed an infraction that resulted in emotive reactions – infractions such as running over a child.

c) Personal pride. A used car might be a symptom of being an outsider to the one per cent family, but there is still a substantial amount of money being exchanged in its purchase either way. It is not unreasonable to want something unsullied, is it?