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Buying a Second-Hand Car in Cyprus
Buying a Second-Hand Car in Cyprus
Translation: Jordan Worsley

Sooner or later, I'm sure that all of us living in Cyprus come across the need to buy a car for themselves or their family. The choice of whether to buy or not is practically non-existent. This is all because public transport on the island is very poor leaves much to be desired. So, if you want to keep your freedom to move around, then you definitely need to have your own set of wheels.

Today, we're going to lead by example and analyse the current situation with the car market, moving from the general to the private sector for greater, let's say, clarity.

I hope our discussion will be of use to you, friends.

Buying a Second-Hand Car in Cyprus

Many of you are most likely aware of the "Cypriot catch" — it's practically impossible to find a family on the island with only one car (regardless of income level or the presence or absence of convenient parking nearby). Right? The more family members you have, the more "cars" you require — such is the unwritten rule, my friends.

This situation very much works in the state's favour: obviously, it makes a lot of money off us (from taxes on cars and fuel ... and from all vehicle products and goods), because everything you buy includes import tax and VAT.

You be the judge: according to existing data [1], the state receives more than 80 million euros per year from road tax alone, as well as income from vehicle check-ups (MOTs) [2].

This resulting situation contributes to a constant and rather sizeable flow of funds into the state budget, which is quite convenient for officials maintaining the status quo. So, let's be honest — what cause have they to change anything, to genuinely modernise and improve the situation with public transport?

However, aside from the financial benefits which our state reaps, it would be wise not to forget about the state of the environment.

A logical question also arises here: where is that "green" ecological policy pledged "on behalf of" the state? Where are the incentives and tax breaks for those who are ready and willing to buy an electric car or at least a hybrid vehicle? They simply don't exist in Cyprus!

Our politicians and MPs have been dragging their feet in reflecting on this issue, but unfortunately for us — they're even slower to act on it.

I think the usual lack of healthy initiative and proper planning speaks for itself. To put it bluntly, the state doesn't care. And as they ride in their newfangled stretch limousines, they can not preach so-called rational saving, nor serve as a model for a "green mind".

It was for this reason that the European Union imposed appropriate sanctions on Cyprus: now Cypriots are obligated to pay a fine for CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Moreover, today's situation with our island's transport is further complicated by the gradual emergence of a new generation of drivers, who are sadly burdened with the expenditures of the old mentality. In any case, they need to use their own car, a priori ignoring the existing public transport services. These guys, like the older generation, are sure that it has had its day. And, yes, this isn't their fault.

But let's move away from these sad realities and onto a more pleasant and exciting topic, for all those keen to know more about buying a car in Cyprus.

How, When, Where and for Whom is it Worth or not Worth Buying a Steel Horse with Mileage

Shall we get going?

Regarding the purchase of a car: many factors will influence the decision you make.

For many of us, one of the most important factors, aside from the brand, model, design, technical specifications, fuel consumption and road tax, is still the cost.

Naturally, if we want to avoid (at least try) significantly cutting into our family budget when buying that necessary car, we go to a car market or read private sales advertisements.

I'll start by delighting you all: for those who would like to make significant savings, theoretically, there is always the opportunity to buy a "good" used car.

And again, "the sad news": here, unfortunately, there are many traps and tricks that you will have to face and experience for yourself. This is based on personal experience — both my own and that of my friends and acquaintances, whose "stories" I've found myself involved in precisely due to having experience in this field.

So, for starters, I'm going to tell you some fascinating stories linked to buying a used car.

It goes without saying, any purchase should be a joyous experience. What more is there for me to say about such a hefty investment to span over many years. I am afraid, however, that this is far from always being the case.

Buying a Second-Hand Car in Cyprus

Three Life Lessons. Or How Much Buying a Used Car can Actually Set You Back

For obvious reasons, we do not state the real names of any companies or dealers: this could happen to you anywhere ...


The First Story: the Auto-Heirs in the Case of Victor Frankenstein [3]

In 1998, a member of the M. family decided to buy themselves a second-hand car imported from Japan.

After arriving at one of the showrooms in the Aglandjia region of Nicosia, we scrutinised everything ourselves: the car looked good as new. In excellent condition! It was an SUV [4] and seemed like a good deal.

We soon began to notice some sort of noise coming from the car, but only when it was moving, like something metallic was moving around. We had to leave the car with a mechanic for inspection, just to be sure. He couldn't find the cause or any other issue with the vehicle. This was very strange, as the noise was now continually occurring.

Anyway, a few months later, M. decided to change the car: to trade it in and buy a sports car. With this in mind, he went to another dealer, also in Nicosia. The owners of the company — two brothers — as soon as they left the office to inspect his car, immediately said from several meters away: "this car has been in a serious accident resulting in damage to the front. We're sorry, but we can't accept this as an exchange".

Incredible how they managed to discern that by merely taking such a quick glimpse!

Yet what seems complicated in theory can be very simple in practice, but more on that later.

These "experts" immediately showed us the marks of the press stops on the sealed cover from the side of the doors (this hydraulic device is used to straighten the chassis of a damaged car using mechanical force). During the process, the press leaves small, faint traces on the lower surface of the car's body.

"You've got a good eye, right? Is this really possible or is something wrong here?"

It then became evident: we had been sold a car previously damaged in an accident.

This literally enraged us all. When we again visited our seller in Aglandjia with these ill tidings, he, to our surprise, was utterly at a loss for words, claiming he didn't know anything.

He was adamant about knowing how this happened and who told us about the car being in an accident. As soon as we named the brothers, his surprise and embarrassment were beyond limits: after all, he had bought the car — unbroken — from those two brothers!

What was this: a case of small world syndrome, or some higher justice!

The man didn't have a clue he'd been tricked into buying a wrecked car, which had later been skilfully "patched up". The brothers, naturally having recognised it in the flesh, by no means wanted to get involved, nor were they going to change the car for something more road-worthy from their own current "assortment".

So, be that as it may: remember that wrecked cars should be avoided at all costs!

Our seller did not leave the fraudulent situation without consequences and caused a lot of commotion around the brothers, putting an end to such a short-lived, but emotionally intense "partnership" with them.

The two scammers lacked the courtesy even to offer at least some compensation to save face. But our seller provided us with an excellent solution: as compensation, he agreed to exchange our car for the sports model he'd offered us, at a very good price.

The seller turned out to be a very honest man. As we learnt over time, this feature is far from characteristic of many representatives in this segment of the car market.

A Few Details for Good Measure about “Frankenstein’s First Creation”:

During a repeat check of the same car by my friend who owns a car body repair shop, he indicated that the chassis had been replaced on both the left and right sides (where the engine is installed).

Since this replacement had been carried out on two sides, only the spots where it had been factory welded remained noticeable. The job had been so meticulously done (and not for the first time, as it turned out: it was a whole business of "reviving" wrecked cars) that not even every professional would have been able to notice it!

What gave their “work” away was the method used to apply an anti-corrosive coating to the seams, as theirs sharply differed from that used by legitimate manufacturers.
Besides, various parts, such as the front bumper, the radiator cage, the lights, the left and right side panels, etc., had been replaced with new ones.

The noise, thanks to which this whole story came to light, was coming from a weakened engine mounting bolt. You see, to fix the car, the brothers had needed to remove the engine and gearbox, and one of the mounting bolts simply wasn't tightened properly, thus creating the "treacherous" rattling noise.

Nevertheless, the story still had a happy ending.

Friends, an important note: in the used car trade there are two types of people: the honest ones — who are always few and far between, and the dishonest ones — who represent the prevailing majority!


The Second Story: “The Z Sign” [5]

A few years ago, we decided to buy a used car for my wife. After conducting some market research, we found a seemingly suitable car, a used Cypriot (i.e. registered in Cyprus) model, at a showroom in Lakatamia (Nicosia region).

This time, we immediately took it to my pro-friends for them to check over, as they were professionals. The results of the inspection revealed the following: the car had undergone some sort of repair, a new coating of paint and a new front bumper, but nothing serious. The mileage was surprisingly small, displaying only 48,000 km on the odometer. Therefore, in exchange for the former, tiny car that my wife had driven earlier, we paid the difference and bought this new one.

The seller assured us that the previous owner was a woman. A lie already!

Now I'll explain why, in this case, the question of the previous owner is crucial.

So, we completed the transaction and paid the full amount. The next day, I went to an insurance company to set up a new policy. My agent then told me that this car was the former property of a rental company. That meant there had never been any "female owner" in the slightest!

For those not up to date, when buying a former rental car, it's highly likely that you're not only acquiring a vehicle with far higher mileage but one which is also no longer in such a good condition (as it might seem at first). The thing is that rental cars aren't sold very quickly, as rental companies try to "squeeze as much as possible" out of them, renting them to numerous tourists for years on end etc.

I went to the dealership to demand an explanation from the man who'd lied to me, acquainting him with the information I now had in my possession.

The seller was amazed at how I'd learnt everything. For some reason, he had decided that this fraudulent scheme — when the dealer allegedly knows nothing about, nor has documents relating to the previous history of a once rented car — was perfect and no one would learn the truth. I didn't fail to "enlighten" the businessman that all insurance companies today have at their disposal a full database with all registered cars. Information about their previous owners is transferred to them on a mandatory basis.

How I wish I'd known this earlier!

Anyway, the man standing opposite was visibly nervous after seeing I was angry and realising that I could take appropriate measures against him (sue). He immediately tried to get me to, if not sympathise, then at least pity him: for some reason, he said that he had been ill with cancer — forgive me, brother, but who can vouch for your words: maybe they are just another lie, who knows?

Since he had attempted to change the subject, I decided to take a tone with him. I remember saying if he had passed this test, this illness, and had already received a second chance in life, then wouldn't it be worth showing some gratitude and honesty (being the best version of himself) — and not continue to be an everyday liar, conman and thief. My friend, you probably haven't learnt anything.

Finally, he offered me a way out: to return my money and my old car, hinting that the car in question, which had become our stumbling block, was in very good nick, and someone would buy it anyway. I decided to leave the deal as it was since the car was already registered in my wife's name, added to the fact we'd already invested a lot of time and effort into this search.

Now for the surprises of "renting"... Well, for us, they began three years later.

After covering another 40,000 km, we began to detect problems with the car's automatic transmission. At the same time, I found out that this shrewd, to say the least, seller, had changed the mileage on the odometer.

Friends, bear in mind: in Cyprus, rewinding the mileage counter ("adjusting" the odometer) is done practically everywhere, and there are unspoken "experts" who can do it quickly and cheaply. These are the people with whom the majority of used car dealers conduct their business.

After that, there was no longer a single used car dealer whom I could trust.

My wife and I again set out to look for a "good used car". We spent three months searching for a second-hand Japanese import (our personal experience suggested we look in this particular segment, I will explain why below).

Needless to say: we couldn't find our "ideal" used car — in good condition, with a reasonable price-quality ratio, transparent service history and mileage confirmation. Moreover, we all the more began to glance towards salons with new models, practically waving our hand to the notorious idea of saving ...

And Now, My Friends, What New Things Did I Learn from All These Searches:

The majority of used cars imported from Japan are, 95% of the time, former rental cars (greetings, once again!).

On several occasions, in spite of dealers' tricks, I've even found stickers and keyring with logos from «Nippon Car Rentals» — one of the largest car rental companies in Japan. There have also been Sat Navs in these cars with Japanese maps installed. I think this had all been set up to make life more convenient for tourists there.

I then conducted my own additional "investigation" and visited the website of this Japanese rental. As far as I could see, there were endless showrooms full of cars. The final destination of ALL these cars was Cyprus, and they all had high mileage on them. Exporters buy them, then someone there, or here in Cyprus, scrolls all the odometer readings backwards to show a lower mileage — usually between 28,000 to 35,000 km. Meanwhile, the actual mileage maybe 200,000 km or more, who knows?

The goal of such low-life entrepreneurs is to increase the value of their used cars artificially. It is no secret that a car whose mileage reader shows low mileage is always more expensive and can be sold quickly and for a good profit.

For a client, purchasing such a car is a potential money pit.

Now, remember: none of you is obligated to blindly buy a car for yourself or your family members, without service history, mileage confirmation or information about the previous owner. Some sellers may try to force you into this, convincing you that several other customers have already shown interest in this car.

Remember that only one guarantee applies to these cars, and that's the one issued by your seller. Do you trust your seller?

During my searches, I focused on a specific model, managing to inspect and check many of the cars on sale. Believe me: they had all been used a lot (some details and fragments of the upholstery, especially in the boot and inside, gave the impression that the cars were very worn out). I can vouch for this, recalling my feelings from test drives, despite the unrealistically "low" mileage on the dashboard.

Guys, I was already fed up with all these used car dealers, their tricks and barefaced lies. Still, most importantly — the sheer confidence in their elusiveness, combined with them clearly underestimating how smart their potential customers might be. None of them, for instance, was able to provide evidence of the actual condition and mileage of their cars.

These people really don't have any respect for anyone. Well, buddy, since you're a conman, then prison is the place for you! And here I have every right to blame the state for the absence of strict legislation. Gentleman, there must be a limit to this — it is about time we sort this out!

So, how did the story end, you might ask?

We finally managed to buy a new car for my wife and…. to some extent, for me, as I was now internally at peace with our choice.


The Third Story: Eyes Wide Shut

Three weeks ago, a close friend of mine asked me to help him check out what he believed was a decent used car that he'd found for his wife through an online advert.

He had a budget of around 7000 euros. We set off together to look at the car and yes, at first glance, it looked pretty good: it hadn't been in any accidents, but some issues with it immediately arose. I told my friend he'd be better off not buying it, in response to which he showed his persistence: "since there are no big problems with it, and this model is exactly the one I've planned on buying for this amount — why not get it?"

What was there to do? I advised him not to pay the full sum at least, but to wait and see if the seller would fulfil his end of the deal: to coordinate all repair work and servicing, including technical maintenance; change tires and provide a spare key with remote control. Everything was agreed and recorded on the prepared account.

Two weeks passed, and the seller delivered the car without fulfilling what he'd agreed previously.

He had only changed the tires on the two front wheels, and the interior was half-washed (only in the front!). But here was the icing on the cake: all the necessary repairs stipulated in the conditions of the transaction — full service, a spare key, polishing the car, fixing the jammed driver-side window, and balancing the wheels (when unbalanced, there were suspicious vibrations on the steering wheel when driving at a certain speed) — hadn't been done at all!

This seller turned out to be incredibly unreliable, and yet still demanded my friend pay him the remaining money. Of course, he didn't get it, as he'd decided not to honour his end of the agreement.

Soon after, something more pressing came to light ...

At first, before showing the dealer the money, I advised my friend to take the car to an expert mechanic for a full check. However, I'll say again, he was so enthusiastic and happy with such a quick "find" that he simply refused to take the car for examination, saying that there was no need whatsoever.

So what was the hidden issue in this car? It had an automatic transmission with an electronic clutch. The clutch seemed to "slip", so when you tried to go up a steep road, for instance, as well as after stopping, the car would suddenly start to bounce. When you tried to start moving, this process would always happen with a little rattling sound.

The seller gave a one-year guarantee, but he refused to fix the car in the same place, at his garage — after all, his garage "had a mechanic". Guys, this dealer turned out to be a so-called "mechanic", although, through talking with him, his knowledge in this area proved to be somewhat relative.

After a series of emotional arguments on our part, he nevertheless agreed to cover some of the costs for the existing faults partially. This conman-dealer, "without blinking an eye", even said that customers with used cars should ALWAYS expect inconveniences and troubles — this is normal! Truly the highest level of philosophy and professional honesty!

The story is still ongoing, creating a lot of trouble for my friend and his wife.

My friend took the car to a garage which specialises in automatic transmissions, then paid for and fixed the problem. The window is still not fixed, and the car needs a new engine. But the show must go on!

Buying a Second-Hand Car in Cyprus

So, in conclusion, here are a few facts that you should remember about used cars:

1. The car market is a risky business, mainly for customers.
According to the European Committee, at least 50% of used cars in all of Europe display mileage counts which don't correspond with the actual mileage of the vehicle.
Incidentally, the EU Committee has acknowledged the severity of these issues and sees the need to change the law to ensure the protection of consumer rights.

2. In the European Union, a two-year warranty is required for new cars.
Used cars have a one-year statutory warranty. Dealers are required to clearly and succinctly state what is covered by the warranty service.

3. Used vehicles with unknown mileage and a lack of service history constitute a potential threat to public safety!

4. In Cyprus, mileage is now recorded by the Department of Road Transport every time a car is sent for maintenance, that is, every two years for vehicles in personal use.
In the case of a faulty odometer, special permission is required to replace it with a new one, and if possible, the actual mileage should be visible on the new instrument. If for technical reasons, this is not possible, then the Department of Road Transport will provide a certificate indicating the mileage on a particular date.

5. Concerning used cars imported from Japan, the Department of Road Transport of the Republic of Cyprus requests an official document issued by the Japanese authorities, indicating the vehicle's mileage at the moment of export.

My opinion: does anyone actually know whether odometer readings are falsified in their homeland before a document is issued? The car mafia has done well to take root everywhere.

6. Cars in the UK have a service history — this is a rule.
In Cyprus, used "British" cars go on sale both with and, often, without a service history. In such a case, sellers will try to assure you that they have no service history — and this is a lie! It just means there's something to hide from a potential buyer.

Buying a Second-Hand Car in Cyprus

Some useful tips:

1. If you're planning to buy a used car, give preference to sellers who have a good name and solid reputation.

2. You have many options for purchase: from car dealerships that also sell used cars, to car markets and private sellers online, as well as at auctions. The main thing here: DO NOT TRUST ANYONE.

3. I'll say again: avoid buying a car blindly, without service history and documented mileage.

4. A special warning regarding used cars coming to Cyprus from Britain: avoid buying cars more than two years old.
The thing is that Brits use salt on the roads in winter to melt ice and snow. Because of this, older cars, as a rule, develop rust under the body, which is practically impossible to "cure".

Also, never buy a British car with a freshly sealed underbody which is blocked up with dirt. This is another trick used by Cypriot dealers to mask overcoat work performed on rust across the underbody. They pretend that it's a factory coating, and not the fresh masking of an existing corrosion issue. If you're not yet up to speed: local specialists, immediately after such a "cosmetic spraying", drive the car along non-tarmac roads, so that dust and dirt tightly stick to the new coating: this way, the rust definitely can't be noticed.

5. Always remember: you have the advantage during a transaction — this is your money. The other party is always interested in taking far more from you than their car actually

6. Before purchasing a car, pass it on to your authorised specialists for inspection and a thorough check of its condition (this should be a qualified mechanic and technician with knowledge of repairing vehicle bodies. They will be able to expose traces of previous repairs after an accident or damage, for instance, as a result of flooding and so on).

7. You ought to pay particular attention to the automatic gearbox, as this a very complex and sensitive device. It needs proper servicing and at a specific time.
Remember: a faulty automatic gearbox costs a hell of a lot to repair or replace.

8. Avoid buying cars from several makes and models which are problematic and unreliable. Unfortunately, we can't state their names in this review.
Simply conduct your own online research to learn more about the characteristics of any given car model in which you're interested. You can find many reliable sources for obtaining information and answers to all questions which may arise.

9. As a rule, used cars from Japan are more reliable than their European counterparts.

10. Always demand a warranty from your dealer in writing: you must know what it covers precisely:

11. If buying a used car which has already been registered in Cyprus, don't be lazy and don't be shy (!).— do your own research to start!
Try to find out who the previous owners were. This will assist your insurers: they always have a database with registered vehicles — like at the Department of Road Transport.

12. Check the owner's certificate to determine whether any bank is a co-owner of the registered vehicle. After all, in such a case, this means there is unpaid debt on the car.
My brother walked into such an “ambush” not too long ago. Fortunately, we managed to work this out in time, as soon as we were asked to provide information about the former owner.

13. Avoid buying cars which have been rented for several years. These motors have high mileage and will soon become a bottomless pit to throw your money down.

14. Know your rights and how to stand up for them.
If in doubt about something, then simply don't buy the car!

15. Don't buy “luxury” used cars, instead, give preference to new vehicles of the same make and class.

16. Always look for excellent opportunities: give preference to cars which you know well.
Credible information can be obtained if you are planning to buy a car, for instance, from your neighbour or relative.
In my time, I've bought a car from my neighbour and friend with very low mileage, a complete history and a full list of maintenance work performed on the interior.
Besides, I knew perfectly well that he only used this car at the weekend, and that the vehicle was parked in his garage for the remaining weekdays. Let's say this was one of the best purchases I've ever made!

17. Be vigilant: as a principle, the buyer is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of the item before purchase.

So, to sum up:

  • It is necessary to introduce strict legislation for the protection of consumers in Cyprus.
  • If the used car market is, in fact, littered with obvious and hidden risks, then the counterbalancing boutique segment for selling new cars is the most secure option for the customer. Everything is “transparent” here. Besides, the human element always plays a large role: while in a dealership showroom, the customer's interests will be sufficiently respected, and they will receive exemplary service with (practically) no catches. Also, this is where the best post-sale service is provided.
    You're calm and confident in your decision to buy!
  • In the European Union, emissions from burning car fuel will be regulated by stricter rules, while the currently permitted CO2 levels will be lowered. Those still taking a carefree approach to air pollution from exhaust emissions will have to pay a hefty amount.
  • Purchasing a hybrid or even electric car will soon become (it hasn't yet) a genuine question for many, to help their country and, on the whole, the planet cut harmful emissions into the atmosphere. I sincerely hope this new car technology will become available shortly.
  • Always conduct online research, even if you're planning to buy a new vehicle. That way, you'll avoid disappointments and issues in the future.

To summarise everything mentioned above: friends, if you're thinking whether it's worth buying a used or new car, I'd definitely give consideration to new options only.

Good luck and I Hope You Make the Right Decision When Purchasing Personal Transport!

[1] The Cypriot media are generally shedding a lot of light on the issue at hand, for instance, in technical online publications or in evening TV news.

[2] Let me remind you: Used cars need to have an MOT every two years. As for new models, you’ll start to”surrender” your “sweetheart” as soon as she turns four.

[3] Victor Frankenstein is the main character and creator of the monster in Mary Shelley's novel “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” (1818).

[4] SUV — (Sport Utility Vehicle) — a light-load truck or jeep.

[5] All rental cars have red registration plates with a "Z" as the first symbol (cars “not for rent” in Cyprus have white registration plates).