Used Cars: Do You Get What You Pay For?
"There is a risk in buying used cars because you might think that you're buying something that only has 30,000 kilometers on it that could actually have in excess of 130,000 kilometers, so in other words, where you think you have a car to drive for 10 years without any problems, you might end up having problems days after you take delivery," said John Ralston, founding chairman of the New Car Dealers Association of Jamaica.
His comments come in the face of a report by one of the world's leading auto companies, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, which reports that research undertaken by the corporation in certain Caribbean territories, 90 per cent of cars at used-car dealerships have non-genuine mileage due to motor vehicle odometer tampering to reflect lower mileages, and other irregularities.
The Government has now introduced an inspectorate unit in Japan to check the authenticity of these vehicles and is discovering the true mileage of used cars which is usually much higher than what the consumer expected.
For some time to come there will be a mileage disparity within the market, especially relating to the thousands of cars that landed in Jamaica prior to mileage verification, and as a result, buyers should be even more diligent in their decision to buy a used vehicle.
Another troubling finding in the Toyota Tsusho Corporation report is the non-declaration of damage history on used imported cars. The purchase of damaged and rebuilt cars is quite popular in Jamaica. "Cars with accident history are cheaper to import," said Ralston when asked why he thought this might be so. It cannot be denied that in many cases, the safety features in these damaged cars are severely compromised.
Unfortunately for consumers, many used cars display good exterior conditions showing no indications of prior accidents that could range from minor to catastrophic damage. The effects of the damage will only be evident in an accident, when it is too late.
While used-car buyers are often urged to have an independent mechanic or automotive centre do a thorough and all-encompassing inspection of the vehicle, the prospective buyer should ensure that this is done on a vehicle hoist. Ultimately, Ralston explained that buying a car that has more mileage and damage than has been declared can result in not only higher repairs and maintenance costs from day one, but could also endanger lives.
Ralston went on the explain that repairs and maintenance costs can further escalate because imported used cars oftentimes do not adhere to the approved engine and parts specifications approved for our markets by the manufacturers. These are commonly referred to as grey market imports.
"For example, somebody may buy a car thinking it's a normal Toyota Corolla, but then when they are in need of parts for it, they find out that the fender, bumper, or engine is different, resulting in repair delays and additional costs as a best-case scenario, and not being able to get the parts at all in a worst-case scenario. At all times, it is a buyer beware scenario when buying used cars imported from a grey market. However, if you're set on buying a used car, do your research and find out as much as you can about the car prior to making the investment," said Ralston.