3 Tips for Buying a Secondhand Car

Buying a car can be an exciting journey; the open road in your new ride feels thrilling. However, are you aware of the hidden dangers when purchasing a used vehicle? Not all salesmen will be honest, and sometimes even the best used motor can let you down. Take note of our tips for buying a secondhand car for a smoother experience. 

Decide What Car You Want

Make a list of the features and type of car you're looking for before hitting the dealers. Do you need a family vehicle or just a two-seater? Does it need to have a radio or electric windows?

Your list should have a non-negotiable column and a ‘would like to have’ column. In this way, you know exactly what you're looking for and which questions to ask when talking to salespeople. 

It will help when searching for vehicles online by providing a filtering guideline. Doing this exercise will also give you a good idea of how much you need to spend to get all the features you want. Setting a budget based on your needs will make car shopping a lot easier. 

Decide what car you want

Inspect and Test Drive

Before you get behind the wheel of a secondhand car, go through the following inspection routine to check for defects.

  • The body and windows - Take a walk around the vehicle and cast an eye over the car's body. Does it look smooth and scratch-free, are there any dents or rust patches? Some of these telltale signs could indicate underlying damage from a car accident.
    Ask about any past incidents, and if the answers seem curious, don't buy the vehicle. Dealers will give you the full history, including previous accidents, but private sellers might not.
  • Check the dash lights - All lights should glow when you turn the key to the start position, then they should all go off once the engine fires up.
  • Inspect the tires - See if there are any cracks or if any steel wires are sticking out, test the thread with a depth gauge that you can get from any auto parts store. If the tires aren't in good shape, ask for a reduction in price as you’ll need new ones.
  • Engine start - Take note of how the engine fires up. A cold motor should start right away without the need to give it gas.
  • Ask for maintenance history - A good car owner will have a record of all the work done. This will also give you a better idea of whether any expensive services are coming up. 

Once you've given the vehicle a once over, request a test drive. Take it out onto the road and keep track of any issues you notice during the trip. Take note of any steering wobbles, braking issues, or gear change problems. Listen to the engine and be aware of any loss in power. Finally, experience the feel of the vehicle and whether you enjoy driving it

Inspect and test drive the used car

Dealer Vs. Private Seller

It's a treasure hunt when looking for a new automobile. A deal that sounds too good to be true most likely isn't the one you want. Buying from a dealer might be a bit more expensive, but the vehicles are certified pre-owned, meaning they've been inspected and given a limited warranty. 

You can also get a full history, including past accidents, insurance history, and registration records. Private sellers are cheaper, but you won't get any guarantees that the vehicle is in the state they claim. The risk of getting scammed or buying a faulty car is much higher. 

Dealers have to adhere to industry rules and regulations, so they’re less likely to sell you a car that's not roadworthy. If you've decided to buy from a private seller, draw up a one-page sale agreement dated and with the vehicle details on it. 

The document can list what state the car is in and any issues that were disclosed. It will be useful if there's ever a problem that you need to take recourse on.

Dealer vs private seller when buying a pre-owned car

Final Thoughts

Getting a new car is exciting and shopping for one can be fun. To make sure your experience is positive, decide what kind of car you want and how much you're willing to spend. 

Don't be afraid to inspect the vehicle thoroughly and take it for a test drive. If buying from a dealer, only use reputable, well-established dealerships. When purchasing privately, get the seller to sign a sales agreement with all the sale details in case you need to take any legal action in the future.