Matt Greenop on motoring

Matt Greenop is editor of Driven magazine

Matt Greenop: Up to buyer to beware

Second-hand Japanese import cars sit massed on Beaumont Street near Westhaven awaiting sales.
Second-hand Japanese import cars sit massed on Beaumont Street near Westhaven awaiting sales.

The term "used" is fairly self-explanatory. If you buy a used pair of shoes, you won't expect them to be the shiny, squeaky brand-spanking kicks you'd walk out of a shop wearing. But used cars are treated differently - and that's fair enough, a bad pair of shoes isn't going to kill someone, unless they're really unlucky.

With a fair amount of talk this week about damaged vehicles finding their way on to New Zealand's roads, I think it's important we keep this in perspective. Used cars, like second-hand Nikes, will have a few issues. Unlike the shoes, they're given a cursory inspection and if they're too ropy, they don't come in. If there's damage that's seen as potentially unsafe, they must be proven to be of an acceptable standard before they'll get sold. Others are just broken down into parts and sold off that way.

The consumer information notice that comes with used imported cars has a box to indicate if a vehicle was damaged when it came in. If it doesn't indicate any damage it is not a confirmation that the car is in mint condition - that's just not a reality, and it's easy to understand why. The big issue is that it does give this impression, and it would be worthwhile to look at new ways of getting the information across so those without an automotive bone in their body don't feel they've been misled.

What constitutes damage is the key issue here. A line in the sand is needed for the CIN - like when you go for a warrant of fitness you'll get a pass or a fail.

A burst CV boot will get you a fail but one that might let go very soon will still be passed; or a set of tyres that will be worn past acceptable levels in a couple of months will still get the sticker indicating the car is safe to go. It's all relative and, when it comes to buying imports, it's a case of buyer beware. Numerous bodies exist to ensure dodgy dealings don't leave consumers out of pocket, or worse, but it's still up to the buyer to make sure they know exactly what they're paying for.

If you don't understand what you're looking at, get an expert to check it out for you, whether there's an indication that it's damaged or not.

Cars are made up of thousands of components - not all of these will be checked, and if you're not buying a new car with a widely focused warranty, it literally pays to know what you're getting.

- NZ Herald

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