We recommend getting a vehicle inspection report carried out on any vehicle that you intend to buy, however there are some checks you can do yourself to narrow the field whilst out looking.
If a car has been properly serviced, it should be in reasonable mechanical condition and if the car you’re looking at has a complete service record, it is a good start.
The deeper the tyre tread depth, the longer the tyre will last. Look at the tyres. All should be of the same brand and size, and be evenly worn. If the tread has only a few millimetres left, factor a new set of tyres into the price of the car. Check the spare, too. Also take it out and place it next to one of the wheels to make sure it fits the car.
Check that the kilometres on the odometer correspond with the most recent service kilometres. If they don’t, or the kilometres on the clock seem low for the overall condition of the car, smell a rat. Winding back speedos is illegal, but some people still do it.
Don’t look at cars on a rainy day. It hides paint imperfections that may indicate panel damage.
Have a look at the oil. If it is in good condition, it will be translucent and honey-coloured. Old, dirty oil is black and has a burnt smell. If this is what you see when you pull out the dipstick, assume that the car has either had a hard life, or been neglected. Look under the engine/transmission for leaks.
The other main indicator of engine condition is the coolant. This must be checked when the engine is cold. Remove the radiator cap. The coolant should be clean and brightly coloured – usually green or orange. If you can see rust in the coolant, oil floating on top, or a white, creamy sludge around the cap, this indicates the cooling system is in poor condition – or, worse, a cracked cylinder head or leaking head gasket. Both can be fixed, but you’re looking at several hundred dollars minimum.
Under the bonnet
Open the bonnet while the engine is running. Fumes indicate worn piston rings or cylinders. Open the oil cap lots of smoke means major engine problems. Blue smoke from the exhaust pipe is another indicator of engine problems.
A dirty engine bay can suggest the car has been poorly maintained.
Check the dip stick. Thick and dirty oil indicates a “sludgy” engine. A milky or grey colour indicates water in the engine – very expensive!
Radiator coolant should be a bright, clean colour. If it’s brown, the car may need work.
Check for rust by looking inside the boot, the floor wells (lift up the carpet), doors and door sills for red or brown stains, dimpled or bubbled paint. Run a fridge magnet across the exterior body panels. If it doesn’t stick, rust or accident damage has been repaired with plastic filler, which won’t last.
Misaligned panels and different paint hues are also indicators of accident damage. Check the engine bay and boot, too, for signs of non-original paint.
On the road
The engine should start immediately and settle straightaway into a smooth, quiet idle. Any knocking or rattling noises are bad news. Remove the oil filler cap while the engine is idling. Oil fumes can indicate worn rings or cylinders, which are expensive to fix. Let the car idle for a minute then ask the seller to give it a rev while you stand behind it. Watch for blue smoke from the exhaust – another sign of a sick engine.
The car should run smoothly, without hesitation. The brakes should pull the car up straight, with no noises or pulling to one side. The same goes for the steering. On full lock, there should be no clicking noises from the front end; these indicate worn CV joints.
The gears in a manual should engage smoothly and quietly, and there should be no clutch slip. An auto should also change gears quickly and smoothly. When you select Drive, it should engage immediately. If you feel a thump, or the shifts are slow, slurred or noisy, the auto could be in need of an overhaul.
The suspension should work smoothly and quietly on bumpy roads. If the car bounces, gets nervous or twitchy, the suspension is probably overdue for replacement.
In the cabin, the air-conditioning should operate quietly and start to produce cold air within a minute or so. If it doesn’t work, it could require regassing, or the replacement of expensive components.
If the car has power-adjustable seats, windows and mirrors, check them. Replacement of the electric motors, or wiring problems, can be difficult and costly.
Does the audio system work properly? Speakers deteriorate with age and high interior temperatures in summer. Aftermarket speakers, which don’t cost much, will usually sound better anyway.
Are the seats comfortable? Some car makers fit seats with padding that sags and becomes unsupportive after a relatively short time. The seat belt webbing should be not be frayed, the automatic retractor mechanism should operate smoothly and the buckles should be easy to secure and release. Find a shady spot and check that all the lights work.
When driving the car, listen for strange transmission noises. For front-wheel-drive cars, do a tight left and right turn. If you hear clicking the car may have worn CV joints.
The steering should not pull or wander. Brake pedal feel should be firm and braking should be smooth.
Make sure all accessories work. Check brake lights and indicators, and look at both headlights. If one is brighter, it may have been replaced after accident damage.
By Top Gear
The Prius gets better in the areas it needed to. Fresh-feeling cabin, urban economy, powertrain.
By Adil Khan
For decades, people have been speculating on topics ranging from car colour affecting insurance premiums to outlandish service intervals. You might ask yourself why these misconceptions exist and where these myths come from. It’s partially due to the lack of transparency in the industry itself as well as the fact that most people find the world of cars to be a little confusing. Whatever the reason, we’re debunking five of the silliest misconceptions about cars, once and for all.
By Craig Jamieson
Ah, the Skyline. Against a skyline. Nice.
The Skyline, in our opinion, is the car that made Nissan.
Never mind that it was actually invented by Prince – no, not the ‘Purple Rain’ one, the Japanese car manufacturer, which merged with Nissan in the 1960s. Nissan kept the excellent ‘Skyline’ name – and the somewhat suspect ‘Gloria’, but we digress.
The Skyline nameplate dates all the way back to the late 1950s, but it’s the 1989 R32 Skyline GTR that really put Nissan on the map. Even though there had been quite a few highlights in the range over the years – the original 1969 GTR, for instance, and the R31 GTS-R – the R32 left an indelible mark, both on the road and in motorsport.
Families have moved on from the family sedan.
Looking at sales trends, soccer fields and school drop-off lines it’s clear that today’s family car is actually an SUV. And the family-friendliest vehicle of them all, the minivan, continues to appeal with its purpose-built practicality.
As SUVs have grown more comfortable and more efficient over the years, families and car shoppers in general have demonstrated an increasing preference for the elevated driving position, superior cargo versatility and higher profile of SUVs. Whether it’s the sliding doors and cavernous interior of a minivan or the high-riding nature and available all-wheel drive of an SUV, each of these vehicles is simply more functional as a family car than a traditional sedan.
~ Best 2-Row SUVs for Families
2017 Honda CR-V
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Motor Company's futurist shares six automotive trends that will shape the car
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The Internet is a great tool to research and shop for used cars. Here's how to use online resources to your greatest advantage as a used car buyer.
The all-new 2018 Range Rover Velar has been revealed, filling the space between the smaller Evoque and larger Sport in the British marque’s line-up, and will land in Australia later this year, in the Summer. Pitched as the “avant garde Range Rover“, the Velar is claimed to offer new levels of refinement and technology for the brand, and is set to go on sale in Europe later this year.
When the Velar goes on sale in Australia, pricing will range from $70,300 to $135,400 before on-road costs. A special ‘First Edition’ variant will also be offered at launch, priced from $167,600 – again before on-road costs are applied.
Although full Australian details are still to be revealed, headline features in the Velar include the debut of the new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens, along with Matrix Laser-LED headlights, Jaguar and Aston Martin-esque flush deployable door handles, and a minimalistic design approach.
Do you know what it’s like to be the most popular person in the room? What about the most attractive? No, I don’t either, I was just wondering if anyone had felt the way Mazda must feel in Australia at the moment. Everything the Japanese brand has touched of late has turned to gold and one blinding example of that is the 2016 Mazda 3 Maxx.
Positioned as the second most affordable 3 in the range, the Maxx actually pushes our pick of the 3 range – the SP25, based on our launch review – all the way when you sit down and weigh up driving engagement, pricing and specification. In fact, if you’re shopping on a tight budget, and you don’t absolutely need the 2.5-litre engine, the Maxx is without doubt the model we’d recommend. Yes, it is that good.
Standard safety kit was part of the recent revision to standard specification across the range, and as such, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and smart city brake support are included. The amount of standard kit you get at this price point is genuinely impressive. Luxury Euro vehicles with stratospheric price points don’t get some of the gear that the 3 Maxx gets standard.
The Maxx is powered by a 2.0-litre, four cylinder petrol engine, which generates 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm and, as tested, features the aforementioned six-speed automatic gearbox. The engine is pretty high tech too, with stop/start and direct injection, all part of Mazda’s SkyActiv-G technology under the bonnet. All petrol Mazda 3 models will drink regular unleaded, although we tend to run 95RON as a matter of course. The ADR fuel consumption claim is 5.8L/100km with the automatic transmission.
External styling is a Mazda 3 strong point and the Maxx is an attractive small hatch. It is part of the reason the 3 is so popular in Australia – we definitely buy vehicles on style in this country. Mazda’s Kodo design language delivers a fluidity in the proportions from front to rear. The signature swooping design cues might eat into second row headroom a little compared to the outgoing model, but there is still room for two adults in the second row. One exterior highlight is the stylish 16-inch alloy wheels, with sensible sidewall tires that add to the driving comfort around town – more on that in a minute.
Controlling the system is beautifully simple via the rotary dial that is mounted within easy reach and is incredibly easy to understand even for first timers. Cleverly, the touchscreen function is deactivated when the Maxx is in motion. The satellite navigation software is quick to load and accurate when directing you to a destination. The audio system works well too, with Bluetooth phone connectivity always crystal clear and never dropping out. You also get DAB+ radio and internet radio integration. The screen displays all you need to work through in an easy to understand fashion.
The driving position, visibility and comfort are all perfect. There’s plenty of seat adjustment for tall occupants even in the passenger seat, but keep in mind, tall adults up front will eat into leg space for passengers in the second row. If the Maxx is a family runaround though, there’s more than enough space to truck the brood around.
The second row seats are actually nicely sculpted and comfortable for adults even on longer trips. You tend to sit down into them rather than up on top of them, and the material is both hardy but comfortable. Your passengers will appreciate the second row accommodation, that’s for sure.
The small console bin and small glove box don’t offer up much space for workers using the Mazda 3 as a mobile office, but there’s safe storage for a wallet and phone ahead of the shifter and the cup holders/bottle holders are well positioned too. The hatch section is low enough to make loading and unloading gear easy and again, there’s enough usable space to haul the kind of gear that most Mazda 3 owners will need to carry.
On the move, the 2.0-litre engine presents – at city speeds at least – as a quiet and refined power plant. It’s only when you lean on the throttle a little heavily, or coax the Maxx willingly up to highway speeds (or roll on overtake from say 60km/h), that it starts to feel like you’d be better off with the 2.5-litre engine. Under all other conditions, the 2.0-litre is more than up to the task. The real world fuel usage reflects the fact that the engine has to work harder than its bigger sibling, returning an indicated 10.3L/100km.
The gearbox is crisp regardless of how hard you’re working the engine, and paired with sharp steering, it makes the Mazda 3 Maxx feel like a nimble little hatch. You find yourself darting around town, like you’re piloting a go-kart, such is the all-round balance and feedback. We loved the way the Maxx rode over poor surfaces, thanks in part to sensible 16-inch wheels and tall tires, but also to an inherently capable suspension tune. While it can turn in sharply and stay balanced through corners, it can also ride comfortably when the going gets nasty – it’s a solid compromise.
As we stated at the outset, the Mazda 3 Maxx really does give the SP25 a red hot run for its money as the overall pick of the 3 range. It’s only piped by the more effective engine and extra inclusions for those buyers not on a tight budget. In Maxx specification though, we reckon the Mazda 3 earns a solid eight overall, such is its all-round ability. It’s not hard to work out why the Mazda 3 is so damn popular with Australian buyers.