Need a ride? Here's the ultimate guide to buying used cars in Karachi

September 07, 2015

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Don't be duped into a bad deal! Here are four steps to follow during your hunt for a used car — Shutterstock
Don't be duped into a bad deal! Here are four steps to follow during your hunt for a used car — Shutterstock

The road to buying or selling a used car is hardly a smooth one in any corner of the world, but it is especially bumpy in Karachi.

If you are interested in buying a used car, the first rule is to not trust anyone, even if the seller has a halo on his head and looks more masoom than Puss in Boots. As long as you remember that most sellers are going to lie to you through their teeth, the following steps may help you make it through the experience with your money’s worth.

Step 1: Figure out which second-hand car is the least offensive

Decisions, decisions: Finding a good buy in the limited available options is a task and a half — AFP
Decisions, decisions: Finding a good buy in the limited available options is a task and a half — AFP

In Pakistan we have as many options to choose from between vehicles as guys have dating choices in an all-boys school, which is to say, not much.

Unfortunately, due to various government policies, only Suzukis, Hondas, and Toyotas are available amongst locally manufactured characters, and with limited models at that. As a result of this monopoly we are stuck with pricey cars which have long been obsolete overseas.

The best person to ask which cars require the least amount of work is a car mechanic working at a very busy garage. After being disappointed with the performance of Nissans and Suzukis, I asked around and was wholeheartedly recommended the Honda City.

The medium-sized sedan from Honda certainly hits the sweet spot in terms of price and performance. While its spare parts are pricier than those of a Suzuki, even after crossing 100,00kms in Karachi, a well-kept Honda City will serve better than a far newer Suzuki Alto or Suzuki Cultus which start running into issues at half the distance. This is purely because the quality of Toyota and Honda components are far better than those of a Suzuki. As a result, the Hondas and Toyotas depreciate slower in value.

Another excellent alternative are the various imported Japanese cars which have flooded the market such as the Toyota Vitz and the like. But be warned, while these vehicles provide more modern engineering than our locally manufactured offerings, one should be careful about opting for more obscure models as their spare parts are likely to be very expensive.

Avoid the Suzuki Liana like the plague.


Initially charmed by the Liana when looking for a new car, I soon began to wonder why its price was depreciating so much faster than its counterparts from Toyota and Suzuki.


They say that some things are too good to be true, and no vehicle exemplifies this more than the Suzuki Liana. Initially I was charmed by this vehicle when looking for a new car, but soon began to wonder why its price was depreciating so much faster than its counterparts from Toyota and Suzuki.

Every other ad I saw for a Suzuki Liana featured a beautiful looking car in seemingly prime condition having done as few as 40,000kms, and priced as ridiculously low as between 500,000 and 600,000 rupees. When I asked my mechanic, who speaks with a colorful vocabulary, he replied animatedly, “Oh bhai. Is b** c*** ko cher na hi nahi. Is say ziada koi garee nahi ate yahan kam kay liya*.”

As it turns out, the Liana can be something of a nightmare. Three of my friends who owned the vehicle shared various horror stories, which started when the vehicle hit close to 50,000kms. A Suzuki representative I spoke to explained that only Lianas maintained by roadside mechanics suffered from issues, but two of my friends had their vehicles managed by authorized Suzuki dealerships.

A close relative of mine shared her story, “While I was riding with my cousins in their Liana on a bridge, out of the blue the car’s AC turned off. Next thing you know, there was some sort of electrical failure, and the car simply shut down as we rolled down the bridge. It was pretty scary. Later they told me this was a regular problem with their fairly new Liana.”

Step 2: Hit the right spots to buy and sell

Decide where you want to browse your options: Pakwheels, OLX or the good old fashioned car bazaar? — Screengrabs/The New Times
Decide where you want to browse your options: Pakwheels, OLX or the good old fashioned car bazaar? — Screengrabs/The New Times

The website Pakwheels.com is the best place to trade. Not only is the community helpful and knowledgeable, but the website itself offers a robust interface. What’s more, Pakwheels.com, in my experience, offers the greatest percentage of genuine buyers and sellers.

For some reason, OLX is a better place when it comes to finding deals. I’ve found the prices here to be more reasonable. At the same time, I’ve found across far more fake adverts on OLX, where it is usually one friend trying to prank another.

My biggest concern with OLX is that criminals have been using the space to target unsuspecting users. On the Facebook page Halaat Updates, various people have reported being swindled by nefarious people who used OLX to hunt for victims.


The best thing to do is to show up with a mechanic. If you can make the journey, you are sure to find a seller selling a car in excellent condition for a bargain price


If you want to go old-school, a great option is the newspaper. Dawn’s Sunday Classifieds are easily the best bet.

Perhaps the most magical option is the Sunday Car Bazaar which takes place on the outskirts of Karachi.

Here, you are almost guaranteed to find a deal as only the most desperate sellers in need of a quick sale bring their cars. Of course, this also requires vigilance as some of these cars have major problems. The best thing to do is to show up with a mechanic. If you can make the journey, you are sure to find a seller selling a car in excellent condition for a bargain price.

Step 3: Follow these tips for buyers

Don't forget to take your trusty mechanic when you go to check out the car! — AFP
Don't forget to take your trusty mechanic when you go to check out the car! — AFP
  1. Always examine a vehicle in daylight, when you have the best chance to notice any flaws in the car.

  2. When you first start the car, watch out for any engine or gearbox check lights. If you see one, run like the wind!

  3. Never buy a car without giving it a proper road test with an experienced mechanic. Often, the most glaring issues present themselves when a car is moving at speed. Be particularly wary of sounds of rattling or tapping from under the hood. Make sure the car is braking and changing gears normally. Most automatic vehicles require transmission fluid maintenance, and for some reason, many Pakistani drivers tend to neglect this. This can result in expensive repairs. Also, be weary of powerful automatic cars with CNG kits, which is never a good combination for a car’s longevity. Finally, check out the tires. If they are misaligned, it could mean issues with the car’s suspension.

  4. After your road test is complete, while the engine is running, have a look at the exhaust. If the smoke is dark or grey, it could be signs of an engine problem.

  5. While the amount of kilometers a car has covered is a decent indicator of its condition, it should be taken with a grain of salt. For one, the digits can be manipulated. Yes, even the digital odometer, according to a Pakistani car importer. But more importantly, a car which has been driven lovingly for 30,000 kilometers will be in far better condition that a vehicle abused for 10,000 kilometers.

  6. Thanks to the CPLC, you can now easily tell if the car ever ran into any legal issues. A professional can also help you determine if the car’s file is both complete and genuine.

  7. The more repainted parts on a car, the lower its value. Check every panel of the car. Do the colors match? Waves, ripples, or bubbling usually indicate a repaint. Is the texture smooth? A repainted car piece can feel rougher than the others. In a city with traffic as congested as Karachi, cars tend to get scratched, and it is natural to expect some owners to repaint some of the parts. That being said, this could also be a sign of an accident.

  8. Pop open the hood and check for signs of rust. Check to see if all the bolts on the engine are in place and if there are any stains, which would indicate leaking. I once came across a deal on a Honda Civic, which seemed too good to be true. The owner lied and said he was selling his car at a 150,000 below market value as he was leaving the country. As it turned out, his driver had been careless with managing the water in the radiator, and the car had overheated. Later, it had gone through an engine overhaul.

  9. Insist that your mechanic check the car from below. Have him look for signs of leaks. Also, ask him to examine the frame of the car. A damaged frame points to an accident.

Step 4: Keep an eye out for these frequently spotted used-car characters

Be wary of the guy with posse! Your prospective buyer's car inspection crew shouldn't be more than a couple of people — AFP
Be wary of the guy with posse! Your prospective buyer's car inspection crew shouldn't be more than a couple of people — AFP

The early bird: If you are like me, you believe that Sundays were made for sleeping in. Unfortunately, on a day you’ve listed a car ad in a newspaper, some enthusiastic buyer will call you at seven in the morning. Your best bet is to leave your phone on silent and return all the missed calls after you’ve cleared the cobwebs.

This won’t be appreciated by everyone though. Some people will feel you are obligated to answer 24/7, “I’ve been calling you since seven in the morning! It is ten now. Why weren’t you picking up?”

Who are you, my mother?

The aggressive bargainer: Your best bet is to set a realistic price after examining the market so the process is smoother. Even so, some buyers will start haggling before they’ve seen the car. Some will even go to strange lengths, “My niece is coming to visit me from Dubai. And I can’t afford your asking price. Can you please drop the price down? Think of my little niece.”

What? You are buying my car to show off to your niece?

The guy who can only pay in installments: “I like your car, but I am still waiting for some money to come in… how about I pay you half now, and the other half two months later?”

How about I saw the car in half, and give you half now, and the other half two months later?

The guy who can’t understand directions: Sometimes you’ll tell someone to take a left at the signal and stop by the red house next to the school, and instead, they will end up in Siri Lanka. Some will also get angry, “This is not the street you told me or I would have gotten here sooner!”

“Yes, I deliberately misled you for a frustrating thirty minutes because I take pleasure in wasting time. Your tears nourish my soul.”

The guy with the posse: There is always the buyer who brings in seven of his friends to check out your car. Look buddy, you can bring a couple of friends, but seven is a bit much.

The shady buyer: “Hi, is it OK if I pay in cold hard cash? Also, please don’t transfer the car to my name. Can we do the sale now as I am traveling tomorrow to KPK.”

Uhhh…

The showoff: “Did you know I have a garment business? I export shirts to all over Europe.”

“Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but I don’t care about your garment business.”

Happy buying!