Online Parts International

Used Cars and Buying Elephants


Simple then. Go with a mechanic friend. Not the backyard mechanic variety but a friend whom works for a dealership. Which dealership you ask. Well, if you are looking for a vehicle light on fuel you need to look at the engine capacity and the wear on the engine. Anyone buying a car with high mileage and a small engine had better look very carefully at the amount of owners and engine wear. Hence the mechanic. Oh, yes – an engine is only part of the problem. Hidden rust in coastal areas is worse. Unscrupulous owners normally do a cover up – from the outside. Unscrupulous dealers do it from the inside and the outside. The problem is bad chassis parts puts your life at risk, not necessarily the engine. A friend of mine boasted how he sold an Isuzu pickup which had both rear brakes disable – leaking cylinders caused him to fold over the brake pipes. Clever indeed. Leaking cylinder cost next to nothing to fix – now the owner has to replace the piping and repair the cylinders. Of course ask for a road worthy certificate and have it checked by the AA. Road worthy certificates can be bought. The AA, as far as I know, cannot. Lets move on to manufacturers:

You like German luxury vehicles? So do I. However they cost an arm and a leg to maintain – you need to buy one with a warranty. A family runabout? Forget it.

  • Volkswagen Golf:  Golfs and Polos if maintained well are always a good choice.
  • Toyota: Conquest, Tazz and Camry. 
  • Honda:  Civic. Just look at the reports, they tell you as it is. One of the most reliable cars on the road.
  • Mazda: Ditto, Mazda are incredibly reliable.
  • SUVs: Buy a Japanese or Korean SUV. British, German and American vehicles are going to bust your bank. Always get a price on a service and what the gearbox will cost you. X5 springs to mind. And Audi.

Looking at the above then Japanese cars are strong and reliable. Likewise Golf and Polo.

For aftermarket parts Golf and Polo seem to be pretty much in a league of their own.

Contrary to popular belief I think Ford make stunning cars. I have friends that tell how crap Ford is. I know mechanics that will tell you different.

Ask any mechanic (good mechanic, not the backyard variety) which car they think is good. If they work at a dealership they should be able to tell you about the pitfalls of certain models, not their own. A good mechanic that does not work for a dealership will give you some pretty good tales – most of them about what costs what, on all models. After all this is very important.

 A few years back I owned a Ford 1.6 Escort GLE. The car did 236 000 Km before I sold it off for about 800 U$. I not once had a breakdown. In the last five years of ownership it suffered a heating problem – the genius mechanic replaced the water reservoir for the radiator. It still overheated because the stupid thermostat was faulty. In total the car actually cost me about 800 U$ in service, cam belt and to repair the heating problem. Now that was good value for money. The older Escorts were the same. Good value for money. Before that I owned a Toyota pickup and a Golf.  No problems from either of those cars either – however living on the coast both cars started rusting. Badly. Not the Ford though.

A car I love is the Fiat Uno. I have not seen many badly rusted. Actually I have only seen one. The paintwork on these cars is superb. Do I stand under correction? They were dipped weren’t they?  Friends of mine whom owned VW Beetles loved them. I wouldn’t buy one. Not now in any event. More in the garage than out. Even with recon motors they just come across as being unreliable. But then again these cars are mega old.

A  friend of mine bought a Nissan 1200 in 1973. It did 300 000 Km – with one oil change and service. It was new when bought, smoked like an active volcano when it was sold 10 years later but it still started on first crank. The car was rusted to pieces and he sold it for about 50 U$. Nissan reliablity is nothing to sneeze at. They make great cars and pickups. 

So what car do you want buy in this huge second hand market. Cars depreciate something like 45% in the first three years off the showroom floor. In South Africa I’d buy a Honda, Golf, Polo, Astra (Opel), Toyota (any), Nissan (any), Mazda (any) and of course, a Ford. Do be brazen and ask about the pricing of parts for the vehicle. Audi will of course make you wet your pants. I love BMW but likewise, that first major failure is the end of that friendship you had with your bank manager. Likewise Renault – I love the Megane.  Renault will also break your bank account when it fails. Electronic failure is normally catastrophic. Easy to bullshit the customer for maximum return on a repair. Find out the cost price of certain of these items. Your computer motherboard costs 100U$ – for your automobile 1000U$. Yes, one is built for safety so the standards are higher. Or are they really?

Me – Ford Bantam van, Golf, Toyota Conquest/Tazz, Honda Civic.

Looking to see what pickup van to buy? Ask your friendly courier company. Or your local breakdown service company.  Here in Cape Town where I reside it’s going to be a Mazda or Nissan. And Toyota Condor for closed vans. 

What would one deem as being a reliable car:

Well, the Toyota Camry is possibly the car that gives you the most bang for your buck. 500 000 Km without engine overhauls is not uncommon.

Engines: I believe the Honda VTEC, old Mercedes Diesels (that should speak for itself) and any engine which is never under stress. I don’t know much about American muscle cars but rersearch shows that with regular servicing and oil changes these engines run for ever. Popular mechanics ran an article a few years back about this very thing – regular oil changes are the common factor. One owner and regular oil changes.

One last thing –  we had cam chains, then cam belts and now again, cam chains. I have been told from a very serious quarter that cam chains are superior. Great! Then why did we use cam belts in the first place?

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