What to look for (and not look for) when buying a used 4x4

What to look for (and not look for) when buying a used 4x4

To be clear, this is aimed at what might be termed the “serious 4X4 user” rather than those who drive them for style and appearance purposes in the big cities.

The chances are you’re likely to be investing a fair bit of your cash if considering buying a used 4x4, so it’s important at the outset to take it seriously.  The following are a few tips that you may find useful.

Ignore the cosmetics

That flashy paint job might look really cool if a 4X4 is parked on a suburban driveway but it’ll count for nothing when you are in the outback.

Sure, if the4x4 ticks all your other boxes and it also comes with breathtakingly good paintwork then fine.  However, don’t be swayed by external appearances and start thinking that those go-faster stripes are more important than some of the “nuts and bolts” elsewhere.

Check underneath closely

Many Australian 4X4 owners have at one time or another put their vehicles through some demanding conditions in rough country. 

What that means is that the underneath of the vehicle has likely to have received a fair old bashing.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with that and particularly not if a previous owner has had extra protection plates fitted below the engine components.  However, you won’t know just what’s going on down there unless you are prepared to get underneath and have a good poke around at your leisure.

So, take a pair of overalls with you and don’t be rushed by the seller.  Take your time and check both the underside and lower engine areas for damage.

Look for corrosion – and very carefully

It probably isn’t necessary to go into this in much detail other than to say you should really look closely around the lower areas of the vehicle, the seals and above all, the door openings.

There are some pretty clever and devious ways of hiding rust damage, so lookout for signs of filling, sanding down and re-spraying.  A little bit of rust on the bodywork probably isn’t a disaster but if corrosion has penetrated the chassis and frames underneath then you could be facing huge trouble and some very big bills.

Good accessories - but check them thoroughly

Having a good range of accessories can not only be useful but also push up the value of the vehicle considerably.  That’s OK because it’s likely to still be a lot more cost-effective than trying to buy the same accessories new.

However, keep in mind that accessories aren’t of any relevance if they’re broken.  So, where its practical to do so, ask the vendor to show you that they’re all working well.

Check inside

Again, don’t be swayed by cosmetic appearance.  A bit of wear and tear on the upholstery is not likely to be a disaster.

On the other hand, mould under the doors or damp patches under the mats are potentially a BIG warning sign that water is getting into the cab. That might mean hidden corrosion.

The fact that the cab lets in water is also not something you’ll want to discover for the first time when you’re halfway across a creek!

Take a mate who knows what they are talking about

If you are a seasoned 4x4 veteran and know them inside out, then this probably won’t be necessary.

However, if you’re a bit“green” in terms of what to look for, take a mate with you who knows what they are talking about.  The chances are, they’ll spot things that you wouldn’t and that could end up saving you both heartache and severe pain in your wallet!

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