Tips On Buying a Used Car

Article Category: Finance  |   

Buying a used car from a private seller can be a potential minefield. To ensure you end up with a bargain, rather than an expensive mistake, follow our simple tips.

Research potential cars

family buying a used car - photo
So you’ve identified the need for a new car, but what kind? Is it just a city run-around or will you need something more robust with four wheel drive for winding wintry roads? Once you have an idea of the type of car, you can start checking used car ‘best buy’ tables, used car price guides and comparing similar adverts in the classifieds. The more information about average prices and features you can garner at this point, the better your haggling chances later on.

Set your budget

Budget well for your prospective car. Include the cost of fuel, insurance, tax and servicing in your calculations so that you don’t end up with a car you can’t afford to run. If you’re going to be financing your car purchase with a loan, check the online comparison sites before you begin. For more information on car loans, check out this article: How to find the best car loan.

>> Use our car loan calculator to help you work out how much you can afford.

Viewing a car

Always arrange to see the car at the owner’s home to make sure the advertiser isn’t a dealer in disguise. Don’t view a car in the rain, in poor light or at night – these can hide a multitude of sins such as dents, scratches and rust.

Take time to examine the paperwork

Request a vehicle’s paperwork and study it thoroughly before you commit to buying a used car. Insist on seeing the original registration document and full service history. Make sure the VIN numbers and registration on the documents match the car you are interested in. Check with the Vehicle Registration Authorities to make sure the car has not been stolen.

Does the mileage increase at a consistent rate over the years? If not, the odometer could have been rolled back in an attempt to boost the car’s price. Has the car been restored after a serious accident? Can the owner provide receipts for repairs? If the owner seems reluctant to produce any of these items or claims that they’ve been ‘lost’, you may be wiser to walk away.

Be wary, especially if the car has a very low mileage for its age or the deal seems too good to be true.

Take the car for a test drive

Never agree to buy a used car without a test drive. If you’re not mechanically minded, take someone who is with you.

Even if you just have a basic knowledge of cars, you can still find out if the car has been well maintained by checking the levels of oil and antifreeze and that the tires are worn evenly. Start up the car from cold to check for ignition problems. Use all the gears – changing should be slick and smooth. Test the car’s emergency stop on a deserted piece of road – there should be no swerving or metallic grinding. As you drive, keep an ear out for any unusual sounds, especially banging noises, as these could indicate significant problems.

So you want the car…

When haggling, keep in mind three prices – the bargain price you’d be thrilled to get the car for, a fair price and the maximum you’d be prepared to go to for this particular car. Don’t hand over any money until after you get a positive inspection from a mechanic you trust and always get a receipt. Make sure the person that signs the Bill of Sale is the actual owner of the vehicle.

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Last update: 04 November 2010

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