Buying a second-hand car in Hong Kong confirms the adage 'buyer beware'. A car that may seem to be a bargain could well have been used for illegal road racing, straining engine, tyres, brakes and bodywork. Illegal petrol might have been used rather than regular fuel, causing more problems for its mechanical parts. And - something many buyers overlook - parts can be expensive for unusual or older models. Plus, there's always a chance that the odometer has been 'clocked' - turned back to show a lower mileage. 'Something like this is very difficult to trace,' said K.C. Kan, general manager of the Hong Kong Automobile Association (HKAA). 'Mr A might sell a car to Mr B, who in turn might sell it to Mr C - if the odometer has been tampered with, there is no way to tell exactly when it was done.' The HKAA offers comprehensive tests for second-hand cars, inspecting body and structure, electrical equipment, the fuel system, air conditioning, transmission, wheels and tyres, and the engine. The test takes an hour and costs from HK$800. It is available to all motorists, including non-members. 'Most people who bring their cars to us are members, almost 90 per cent, but if you are thinking of buying a second-hand car, it really makes sense to get it checked properly first,' Kan said. In addition to getting a second-hand car tested, professionals advise checking prices by shopping around, and looking at all possible sales outlets, including newspaper adverts, checking online and visiting second-hand car dealers. Adverts posted in shops can also offer good deals as the owners might be leaving Hong Kong and keen to make a quick sale. Even if buying from an individual, who may claim he or she is selling a family car, it is still highly advisable to get the vehicle fully checked out. When it comes to actually discussing the price, it's important to remember to negotiate. The vendor - whether a private individual or a commercial operation - will naturally want to sell the car, and so should be happy to drop the price. If you go into a sale not expecting to get a discount, you won't. Charles Lee, a Repulse Bay resident who bought a seven-year-old Mercedes Benz SL 500 convertible in August for HK$67,800, recalled the first second-hand car he bought with a touch of rancour. 'I didn't think, let alone go through the checks that are really nothing more than common sense,' he said. 'I saw the advert, rang the mobile number and made an appointment for that afternoon. I did a quick test drive, and decided there and then to buy it. I had numerous problems in the next few weeks and spent almost as much money as I paid in the first place putting it right. 'I didn't make the same mistake with my Merc though - forewarned is forearmed.'