How To Buy A Used Car In Pakistan: A Guide For Dummies

old used car jalopy

The day has come and you have saved enough capital that you are opting to buy a car for yourself. Keeping the realities in mind, now your cash is in the hands of car dealers and chances are you are going to end up buying a car that is actually a dealer’s rental car, but now he is selling it through a fancy ad in newspaper or the popular ad websites with photos taken in his house or at a friend’s place. In this article I will try to explain as much as possible about how the market works for used cars in Pakistan.

So lets start like this; dress up casually and ditch your valima suit as you will be doing a bunch of somersaults while checking out the car. Also keep in mind, that while on a car hunt you should be a maximum of 2 persons, do not take the whole ‘baraat’ to the seller, like all your denter painter and your mechanic buddies, your 3 brothers and few cousins, a tantrum throwing toddler etc. If you have a good friend who is not jealous of your car hunt and has some experience of checking the cars out for you than take him along as a priority. I think a deal of nice dinner or lunch will do the trick.

This guide is for you if you are new to this important stage of your life where you will be considered a super hero among your friends and family for buying a car cheaper than its market worth and a loser if it’s the other way round. My advice, do not even disclose the price you paid for the car because we Pakistanis are experts in prices and everyone has a list of car prices in their pockets.

  1. Finalize the type, model and make of the car before starting your search

It is better to stick to one single model/type of the car while doing the research, do not try to put multiple types of cars that fall into your budget because that will cause more confusion and you may end up buying a newer model of scrap metal. Think rationally and stick to one model that not only pleases you but also serves the purpose the purchase of the car was intended for.

Do not go for models that are obsolete, unique or have a history of parts unavailability. Our local workshop culture is that the “ustaad” will use your car as a lab rat for their “chhoota” to learn and experiment on. And you do not want a Frankenstein’s monster (Peugeot with Khyber headlamps or Charade with Vitz engine) as your first car. You need something trouble free and reliable.

  1. Disregard the new(est) model disease

A general consensus of market is that a perfect car of a particular year can not be more expensive than the bar set by the dealers. But it is the other way round if the dealer has parked himself a mint condition car. Anyway, you have option to buy a 2014 mint car and a 2016 same shape car that has been abused from the day one. Be rational while taking a decision, look for signs of wear and tear, do not trust the odometer if its around 80,000 km because every used car in Pakistan is at 80,000 km. A good condition car will always be a little expensive than its counterparts and it will give you double the service in the long run, save your time and effort , avoid getting a car cheaper and re affirming yourself that you will get factory standard repairs on it from footpath mechanics. That will waste a lot of money and not add to the value of car. A highway driven car can be more in mileage but will be less abused comparatively as cars that are only driven within cities.

  1. Parking area of car

Some cars are neglected and some are taken care of, take notice of small things like where the car is parked, is it sun baked enough to have its paint flaked off in a few years after your purchase. Look for signs of oil stains on the floor, a coolant leakage or a gearbox leakage.  If you see any, keep calm and continue checking the car out, look around and see for good quality car shampoos lying around, believe the car is pampered enough if you see any. If you are at a dealer, then every other car has gone through a desi style paint cutting job and it will be shinny and new to the eyes. Be careful, do not buy car having its lacquer thinned out to almost nothing, permanently.

  1. Maintenance records

Ask for maintenance records of car. Some people are particular about it and it’s a good thing if someone shares this information with you. If it is maintained by 3S dealership than get the record checked from the dealers directly.

  1. Usage checks (the most important part of this guide)
  • Body Panels
    See the car from a little distance and try to compare it with a same type of new car. Any irregularities and misalignment of body panels require further inspection and anybody with an eye for detail can check it. It is not something which is reserved for your body shop experts only. You can do it too. It’s just that we do not try hard enough. Also check all the foot-boards of the car from top to bottom and front to back, the wear and tear of paint will tell you a lot about the environment the car was used in. Avoid a car having a misaligned front and rear because it will be hard to get rid of afterwards. If you get a slight hint of repair done than take your friendly neighborhood panel beater along for further assessment or leave the car.
  • Gear knobs
    You can tell a lot about a car by having a closer look at its gear knob. Is it scratched and scruffy, or polished? If its polished than the chances are that the car is driven, a lot. Although it is different for automatic cars cause the wear and tear is less in automatic cars.
  • Foot pedals
    If the foot pedals show worn out rubber on clutch pedal and brake, or if you can feel the play in the levers of the pedal while depressing, than this also can hints the millage car has covered in its time.
  • Steering stalks and switches
    If the white lettering on them is almost washed out and polished to perfection than the car has done at least 300,000 km.
  • Roof liner
    A hanging roof liner can be expensive to repair, and a common cause for cars being rolled over or parked in the heat of sun for too long.
  • Door panels
    Decaying door panels or having accessories worn out or damaged can be a sure sign of bad repair jobs done behind them; be very careful. Service station washes can also cause severe damage to door panels.
  • Window channels
    A perfectly aligned window will move up and down smoothly no matter how dusty it is. If it doesn’t, look for the internal damage to the door frame.
  • Dark headlights
    Cars used on rentals usually have smoked headlights as a default because of their continuous usage at night. Its your decision to further decide. Sometimes long driven cars also have blacked out headlights due to continuous usage at night but are perfect in other ways.
  • Weather shields
    Check the fender liners, weather shield and trim on doors. Minor cracks are common and not a problem but major chunks wearing out specially around the main screens are signs of a poorly kept car.
  • Engine noises
    While starting the car, observe the CEL (check engine light) lighting up at ACC ON position and going out after the engine is started.  If not, then something is fishy and CEL lamp is removed. Some sharp sellers also combine the CEL with OIL light in parallel, observe the timings of them going off.
    Check engine by listening to any abnormal sounds. Sounds of belts slipping are usually common and a cheap repair. Noises like thudding, clanking and fine knocks are expensive on the pocket. Fine clicks are fine and can be repaired easily. Open the radiator cap if the car is cold and see if the coolant is there, if not keep in mind cost of coolant and radiator flush. Avoid cars having loose wiring in engine bay. A car is not reliable if its wiring is messed up. Also do not buy cars having alterations that are not designed for them. Or crazy engine swaps like Charade having a Vitz engine.

For many of us, owning our own car brings joy and happiness. It’s an event when you bring your first car, new or used, to your house and show it to your friends and family. When we pay our hard earned money, we expect the best bang for our buck; no one likes a lemon. We expect sellers to be honest and truthful, but we share the responsibility to be as cautious as possible when buying our first car. It is not just about the money you are spending, but also about the safety of you and your family. A weak or faulty automobile can be a threat and can cause an irreversible harm to you or your family. Be cautious and always buy smart.

Rizwan Akram

A car enthusiast having experience of ground up restorations, vehicle electronics expert.

  • Grewal

    Nice Information. Thank You

  • Thanks for the information but can you please add some images too for better explanation.

  • Muhammad Irfan Bakali

    Great Article.

  • imran

    i agree with most of things mentioned in this article ,the thing is when you start searching a low budget car like up to 200,000 you don’t have much options in this budget either you go with Khyber,Mehran or Charade,only these three car’s spare can be found easily in the market 70% car owners in Pakistan having these kind of cars according to your article Scrap …my first car was Mehran you know the comfort level of this car hence it was Zero meter but never feel comfort and satisfaction its like a Rickshaw then i bought a Charade swapped its Diesel engine with vitz engine its running trouble free and fine.for these kind of alterations you should have some technical knowledge any engine modification can lead to a disaster if you don’t change its suspension and breaks also if you can do this then no problem with old cars .

  • Amesh Kumar

    i will just ask the writter to check the car for me in the times to come 😛

  • Kamran Khan

    I bought my first car , a 98 mehran recently and after leaving it with the mechanic for the whole week for necessary repairs, i took it out in the afternoon, and the same night, a sudden fire erupted in the engine bay, thanks to the people who helped me in extinguishing the fire, no big loss occurred, i was so scared that i told the dealer to resell this car as it’s not even suitable to be on the road :/