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Buying a used car can be tricky business. Here are some things to look out for to avoid getting tricked into making a wrong decision.

18 Jan 2012 | Category: Car Buying Advice

With car prices the way they are in Singapore, purchasing a car here is a big decision that involves a significant amount of money for most people. This applies to sellers as well, and unfortunately, there will be some black sheep out there that would want to maximise their profit using unscrupulous methods.

So, in order to prevent yourself from unnecessarily parting away with more than you have planned for, here are some things to look out for when buying a second hand car in Singapore, to avoid getting tricked.

Tampering with the odometer

An illegal practice in most countries, it is surprising that there are no specific laws guarding against this act of deceit in Singapore.

As such, some sellers take advantage of the situation to modify their car's odometer, to make it look younger and less used than it is.

While it might seem like a superficial practice to some, the truth is, winding back the clock (as the trick is known) is plain and simply cheating.

For the fact that cars have regular servicing intervals, having an odometer that doesn't tally with the actual usage might actually be harmful or even dangerous, as owners end up not giving the car the appropriate care as befits the car's age.

While it can be hard for the layman to spot odometer tampering at first glance, there are signs that one can look out for to indicate if such practices are being used.

On average, cars in Singapore travel about 20,000km annually. Taking that into account, one can get a rough estimate as to the proper mileage of a car being sold, using the car's age as a multiplier.

The condition of the car can also provide a clue. If a car with low mileage looks tatty and worn, then there is cause to raise red flags to question the validity of the claimed mileage.

The safest bet is of course to look for a car with all the proper records and documentation such as the mileage and servicing intervals, so that everything about the car, from whether it has been properly maintained, is noted down in black and white.

Extra hidden charges

Like all major transactions, it is important to know what exactly one is paying for. Therefore, before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that the seller outlines every single charge that goes into the final transacted price.

Dealers often add an "Admin Fee" into the transaction, which is often claimed to be for the handling of paperwork such as applying for loans and insurance. While it is a common practice, it is strictly unnecessary, as dealers already make a significant profit from the cars they sell, as well as receiving commissions from bank loans as well as insurance.
However, if you feel that the dealer has genuinely assisted you in making the transaction painless and smooth-sailing, with no underhanded tricks, then the admin fee might serve as a sort of goodwill payment as thanks for their services.


Only buy a car once you are completely comfortable with the whole experience. Sellers might pressure you into making a quick decision, but always stand firm, and resist from giving in to gimmicks that will compromise your purchase.

Some tricks that dealers might foist upon buyers include advertising a car at low prices but only to claim that the advertisement was a mistake when the customer approaches the dealer.

There are also dealers who advertise their cars for a low price, but then claim that said car has already been sold when customers approach them. These dealers will then offer a similar car but with a higher sticker price than the advertised vehicle. Always be wary of such tricks being pulled by dishonest dealers.

Blank form

A recent trend that has been exposed was the signing of blank forms. When applying for a loan through dealers, they might request that you to sign on a blank portion of the hire purchase form. Although this is meant to reduce the trouble for you to have to make several trips to sign papers, it is a potentially risky move. Leaving your signature on a blank piece of paper leaves the dealer to fill in whatever he wants. You might return to find that the loan amount that you had agreed with the dealer has increased due to some "administrative fees".

To properly safeguard yourself, never sign any blank forms. It might mean a bit of inconvenience for you to make a couple more trips, but it's better than ending up paying a lot of extra and unneeded expenses.

Black and White

Finally, the most important and common advice of all. Always have everything declared and written down, in "black and white" as they say.

Anything written down is contractually bound under the law, and is final. Be sure to read the fine print of any contract before putting the pen to paper, and clarify any clauses you are unsure about, or any doubts that you might have about the transaction.

Make sure you agree to everything before signing off, to avoid incurring future headaches down the road.

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