Article by Justin Pritchard and photo by Jeff Wilson
Whether it’s for instant baller status, supreme long-haul comfort, or to take in a taste of the motoring high-life, Canadians have numerous reasons to check out luxury cars from the used-car marketplace. Typically serving as showcases of a given automaker’s latest in high-tech, luxury and performance, luxury cars pave the way for the systems, features and design implements that eventually trickle their way down to mainstream models.
Buying and owning a used luxury car can be a pleasurable experience – provided the model in question isn’t about to go all Luis Suarez and take a bite out of your wallet.
Given the very nature of the luxury car, and the features you’ll often find fitted to them, a few standard checks are advised for maximum peace of mind.
And remember – when talking to a seller, be sure they’ll have no problem with you having the vehicle in question inspected by a mechanic of your choice, preferably at the car’s selling dealer, ahead of your purchase. A pre-purchase inspection is a good investment in peace of mind and confidence.
Wheels and Tires
More often than not, luxury cars roll on great big wheels with thin, low-profile rubber to achieve a look popular in rap videos. Just be aware that the less rubber surrounding a wheel, the less protection that wheel has from impacts with potholes, frost-heaves and the like. Translation? Check the tires and wheels closely for signs of damage, on both the outer and inward-facing surfaces.
On the tires, look for cracks, splitting and bulges or bubbles on the sidewall in addition to standard tire-wear checks. These are all signs of damage. Check the wheel lips for signs of abrasion, bending, welding or cracks as well. Remember the signs of a bad alignment, particularly uneven tread-wear across the tires, can indicate trouble, too.
Your luxury car has leather seats that can tell a tale. Look at the outward edge of the driver’s seat. Is it cracked? Peeling? Missing chunks of colour or leather? Faded? If so, call it into pricing negotiations. If not, investigate further.
Does the interior look clean and well maintained? Or is it full of chips and garbage and pet-hair? A well-maintained car will tend to look like one, and like any vehicle part, leather should be maintained to preserve it and prolong its life. If the seats look to be in sound shape, be sure to keep them that way with regular use of a leather cleaner and conditioner product. Not only will properly cared-for seats make the car more enjoyable for you, but it’ll help resale value when you go to sell one day.
Gadgets are part of what make a luxury car a luxury car. The one you’re considering probably has things like Bluetooth, navigation, climate-controlled seats, push-button start, a high-grade audio system, and maybe even some super high-tech stuff like radar cruise control and night vision.
Plan to spend perhaps 20 minutes confirming all of these systems work properly to avoid frustration. Pair your Bluetooth phone and call your grandmother. Program the navigation system to take you to WhiteCastle. Turn on your seat heater. Try the seat memory function. Ensure the car locks, unlocks and fires up with all available keyfobs. Does the power-close trunk work? The rear-window sunshade? If something’s busted, now’s the time to find out.
More often than not, luxury cars in the used marketplace are fitted with powerful xenon lights that flood the road ahead with pure, crisp white light. That’s if there’s no bulb burned out – so confirm both headlamps are working properly, on both low and high-beams. Xenon lights can be on the pricey side to replace when they burn out, so be sure the seller isn’t trying to pass the bill along to you.
Recalls are typically issued by automakers to address a latent safety defect that wasn’t caught in development. Recall work is important – and anyone buying a used car should ensure the recalls affecting their ride have all been carried out. Easiest way to see the recalls affecting the ride you’re considering? Google search to see what, if any, recalls are posted for your potential ride. Then, take the VIN number of the model you’re considering to the vehicle’s dealer – where they can advise which, if any, recall work is outstanding.
Numerous luxury cars, especially the larger ones, use an air suspension system to enhance ride quality and adjust or even out ride height, depending on the application. Air suspension systems can create a creamy smooth ride and impress your pals as it lifts and lowers the car’s body on its wheels – though it can also turn in a massive repair bill if any of the various components that run the system wear out or fail, which they eventually will.
Best defense against possible air-suspension repair bills? If possible, avoid a model with air suspension. If not, be sure to cycle the system through its various height settings as outlined in the owner’s manual, noting any non-functionality, warning messages or unwelcomed blinking lights in the process.
Consider a scan of the brain of the luxury car you’re considering to be absolutely mandatory. Numerous networked computer systems run and control your potential new ride’s powertrain – and any of these could be storing a trouble code waiting to be revealed with a peek inside the computer. Since not all trouble relating to engine sensors and control units will cause a warning message or Check Engine light, a computer system scan can provide maximum peace of mind that your new posh-rocket isn’t in need of a few hundred bucks worth of sensors and modules.
Trickle Charge It
Newer cars, and especially the gadget-rich luxury models with their numerous high-draw systems and thirst for delicious electrons, can be hard on their batteries. That’s especially true if the vehicle was, or will be, used for frequent short-distance driving, which may not allow the battery to recharge fully. So, on a test-drive or during ownership, note that fussy and niggling electrical issues can be caused when lower-than-required battery voltage make some of the electronic systems get all cranky-pants and act up. A solution advised by many owners is to keep the vehicle on a Trickle Charger when it’s not being driven. You can get one at Canadian Tire for about $30.