Tuesday, July 9, 2024

What To Do When Buying A Used Car

Don't Miss

Whats The Cars Mileage

12 Things To Check Before Buying A Used Car

Mileage matters. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reports that the average person drives 14,263 miles each year.4 All of that adds up to wear and tear on the car. Keep that in mind when youre making your decision. Some vehicles can pack on a crazy amount of miles without skipping a beat . Others? Not so much. So once you know how old the car is and how many miles are on it, you can figure out pretty quickly if the sellers been running their car into the ground or only drove it on Sundays.

Not Running A Vehicle History Report

In addition to performing a test drive and having the car inspected by a mechanic, it’s important to run a vehicle history report. With a vehicle history report, it’s possible to check for any prior accidents, problems with the car, and the number of previous owners.

Dealers usually pay for this third-party service. But if the sale is through a private seller, the purchaser will most likely have to foot the bill. Whether you use CARFAX, AutoCheck, or another service, it’s always important to check the history of the car and the stories of its owners.

Find A Vehicle History Report

History reports are inexpensive and provide valuable information for purchasing decisions. Reports include details on accidents, flood damage, number of previous owners, VIN verification, actual mileage, and recall checks. If you are considering buying a used car from a dealer, ask to see a vehicle history report from CARFAX or similar service.

Recommended Reading: How To Get Old Milk Smell Out Of Car

Buying A Used Car From A Dealer Or Privately Isnt Always Easy So Here Is Our Advice And Tips On How To Buy Your Dream Second

When buying a used car – whether that’s privately, by going through a dealer, or online – there is an amount of inherent risk. But if you do your research, learn what your rights are as a buyer, and know what to look for, you could save a substantial amount of money and prevent any nasty surprises further down the line.

Follow this guide – while making use of our used car checklist – and you can enjoy peace of mind and a great deal your new pride and joy.

When shopping for a used car, most buyers tend to aim for the sweet spot, when a car is three years old. This is because most new cars are bought on finance deals or company fleet leases which run for around 36 months, After this they are returned to the dealer or sold through auctions and usually find their way into the used car market.

At three years old, a car should be around half the price it was new, depending on the model and the mileage, but should still have plenty of life left in it. Its a generalisation but data from warranty providers also suggests that car reliability tends to tail-off after 5 years so thats a sensible point at which to move your used car on and look for a replacement.

There are still plenty of good cars which are 5+ years old, of course, just bear in mind that they may cost more to run and need more repairs than younger models.

How Do You Perform A Proper Test Drive

Used Cars: A Checklist of What to Look for Before Buying

A 30-minute test drive is essential to evaluate how a car runs in a realistic setting. Plan a familiar route and test actions you would typically do hit the brakes, put it in park, take a corner, accelerate, merge and change lanes. Get a feel for the cars accessories and ensure they work.

Get the test drive checklist.

Read Also: What Scratches Can Be Buffed Out

Decode The Vehicle Identification Number

When buying a used car look at the Vehicle Identification Number . Some scammers will replace the VIN of a stolen car with one that is legally registered. Check the VIN for consistency on all service records, history reports, title documents, and on the car itself .

This VIN Decoding chart may also help.

More Than Just Sticker Price

We shouldnt forget that newer models often have advantages over their older counterparts. For instance, in 2012, electronic stability control was mandated for all cars, and side curtain airbags became standard in most vehicles. Backup cameras were available on many 2012 models. Other advanced active safety features became more widely available in the 2012 model year, so its a good place to start if safety is your primary concern in purchasing a used car.

Newer vehicles often have better mileage, too, which can save you money in the long run. And you often find more gadgets and better stylistic choices in newer model years.

You May Like: Cleaning Car Door Panels

How To Get The Best Deal On A Used Car

No matter where or who youre buying a car from, our best advice is to be polite and fair.

Its human nature to want some money off and, while some sellers will be open to negotiating, others will be less keen.

Take a positive approach and view it as a challenge – sellers rarely respond well to buyers making insulting offers and taking an over-the-top approach to haggling.

Walk around the car with the seller and highlight any issues youve found.

Theyre likely to already know about these – and may have already taken them into account when pricing the car – but itll help them see it from your point of view.

Before going to see the car, you should have looked into how it compares with others on the market , so youll know how much its worth.

With this in mind, set your budget in advance and stick to it.

If you feel the car is overpriced for the condition its in, make an offer and be prepared to walk away if the seller isnt willing to move.

You may find that the seller makes a counter offer – if not straight way, perhaps when youve driven home and showed youre not willing to pay more money.

If youre buying from a dealer, there may be scope to get some extras thrown in free rather than simply money off.

Ask for a full tank of fuel, for example, or a service or MOT if the car needs it.

Avoid being pressurised into buying a used car.

If you’re not 100% sure on the car, walk away there will always be more to see.

Don’t buy a car from a private seller in a public place.

Checklist For Buying A Car From A Private Seller

What to Do after Buying a Used Car:

Here’s a simple rundown of what to do and what not to do when buying a car from a private seller.


  • Before seeing the car, look up the fair market value of the vehicle using Kelley Blue Book.
  • Ask the seller for the mileage on the car so you can do your research.
  • Ask the seller for service records.
  • Check the registration. Does it match the title and the seller’s ID?
  • Deal with local sellers, if possible.
  • Check the VIN on the car against the paperwork. It should match exactly.
  • Test drive the vehicle, getting it up to highway speed.
  • Check for recalls via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .
  • If the car is less than four or five years old and has fewer than 100,000 miles on it, call the original dealer to find out if the manufacturer’s or dealer’s warranty is still in effect. If it isn’t, ask them why.
  • Buy from a seller who can meet you in person.
  • See the car during the day. It’s too easy to miss big problems at night, like rust on the frame.
  • Bring a friend for safety.


Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the authors opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

You May Like: Car Soap Alternative

Advantages Of Buying A Car From A Private Seller

Whether youve decided to buy a car from a private seller in order to get a good deal, avoid hidden fees or simply because you found the exact vehicle youve always dreamed of, there are a number of advantages to purchasing from an individual.


Low price is the most important advantage to buying from a private seller. In fact, if your first concern is budget, but you have some cash on hand and don’t need to finance, it’s almost always the way to go.

  • There are no dealer fees. Nearly every dealer adds $500 to $1,000 to the price of the car in dealer fees, documentation fees and other fees that get tacked on to your bill of sale sometimes at the last minute as you get ready to write a check. Since a private-party seller is not a dealer and has little or no overhead, the private seller can offer a lower price
  • Private sellers typically won’t try to sell you extra warranties. While problems are usually rare, even short warranties cost money or add risk for the seller, and they drive up the price on used cars.
  • Level playing field

    A professional car dealer has probably sold hundreds or thousands of cars. You, on the other hand, have probably bought and sold just a few.

    But when you buy from a private seller, chances are you and the seller are negotiating on a much more level playing field.


    When you buy from a private seller, they want to finish the sale and get back to life. This means a ready buyer who can pay immediately will probably get a good deal.

    Inspect The Engine For Any Leaks Corrosion Funny Sounds Or Smells

    View this video to learn how to check car fluids, belts, and perform full under-hood inspection.Dark brown oil stains on the engine block indicate a leaky oil pan gasket. Check to see if the previous owner has documentation of oil changes, radiator flushes, any repairs, or any other regularly required maintenance. Evidence of preventative maintenance can be helpful in your purchasing decision because regular maintenance extends the cars life.

    Don’t Miss: Carvana Buy Out Lease

    Inspection And Test Drive

    Give the vehicle a thorough visual inspection of the exterior, interior and engine to see if there are any signs of damage. If everything looks okay, ask to take it for a test drive to make sure that it feels comfortable and operates smoothly. If they do not let you inspect the car or take it for a test drive, consider that a red flag that they’re not being honest with you.

    Buying A Used Car Online

    Used Car Buying Checklist

    The online shopping craze is showing no sign of fading – and that includes big objects such as cars.

    Although car manufacturers are finally cottoning on to selling new cars online, people have been buying used motors on the internet for years.

    Most of these online sales are through online auctions site eBay.

    You can buy a car over the internet by bidding on an auction or hitting buy it now.

    Wed express caution about doing this without seeing it – its a good idea to give it a good once over and meet the seller first, but being prepared to take a risk could bag a bargain.

    If you do buy a car online, most buyers will expect a deposit paid via Paypal before collection.

    Although sellers wont take kindly to time wasters, if the car isnt as described when you arrive to complete the sale, youre free to walk away.

    This takes away some of the risk – but you are contracted to buy it otherwise, even if you decide you dont like the colour or realise the seats arent very comfortable.

    If you buy a car online thats a long distance away and you cant collect it yourself, there are a number of transport companies which will deliver it to you for a reasonable cost.

    Services such as Shiply allow you to request quotes from a number of different companies.

    Search RAC Cars, with more than 300,000 new and used cars on its database, now

    You May Like: Cheapest Car Rental For Aarp Members

    Check Under The Bonnet


    A dirty engine can point to vehicle neglect. But a sparkling clean engine may be the result of a recent steam clean undertaken to mask defects.

    Look for:

    • frayed or burnt wiring, oil streaks and poorly attached or damaged hoses
    • petrol leaks around the carburettor and fuel lines
    • black soupy oil can indicate a worn-out engine
    • oil leaks or other drips under the car.

    With the engine going:

    • take off the oil filler cap if large amounts of gas come out the engine is badly worn
    • let the engine idle for a few minutes and have a friend watch the exhaust for blue smoke when you push the accelerator. While a single puff is okay, continuous blue smoke means a badly worn engine.


    • leaks, rust or water stains
    • leaks in the radiator hose and where the cylinder head meets the engine block.

    When the engine is cool, remove the cap to check the water:

    • A little rust colour is okay.
    • A green or blue tint from coolant or engine conditioner is okay too.
    • Any oil in the water indicates a major problem.
    • Perfectly clear water won’t tell you much it’s probably just been changed.

    Don’t forget to replace the cap.

    Are There Any Special Features Or Lack Thereof In The Vehicle

    When youre viewing the car in person, one thing to note is if there are any special features or lack of them in the vehicle. This could be things like automatic dimming mirrors, automatic seats, bluetooth capabilities or keyless entry. If the car lacks features that make you feel more comfortable when driving, then this is something to consider.

    Also Check: 1-888-601-6302

    Best/worst Tossup Months: January And February

    Is the very beginning of the year still a good time to make a used-car purchase? Experts are split in a 2022 landscape.

    Neiman said one of the best times to buy is at the beginning of the year. January and February are when dealers are trying to make room for newer inventory and consumers often desire to buy the next model-year vehicle.

    Joe Shaker, owner of Shaker Auto Group, said January and February used to be the best time to buy a used car, especially in the Northeast. Now, the time of year doesnt matter.

    Over the next 18 months, new car supply will dictate the price of a used vehicle and the best time to buy, Shaker said. When new-car supply rises on specific brands, used cars will start to slide in those brands.

    While certain factors e.g., supply chain issues and rising interest rates affect the used-car market and are beyond the buyers control, Shaker said new-car supply has created a unique opportunity for those who want to trade or sell a car. The best time to do that, said Shaker, is now.

    More From GOBankingRates

    Dealer Auction Or Private Sale


    The benefits of buying from a dealer

    Buying a 2nd hand car from a dealer is usually more expensive than buying privately but there are some advantages:

    • In some states and under certain conditions, they must provide a statutory warranty. This can often exclude parts like the radio, air conditioning and battery so make sure you’re clear on what is and isn’t covered.
    • They must guarantee there’s no money owing on the car.
    • They usually have to display a form on the car’s dashboard or windscreen that provides some basic information, such as the year of manufacture, odometer reading and warranty details.
    • You can trade in your old car.

    What to consider when buying in an auction

    You might be able to pick up a bargain at auction but you really need to know about cars and what they’re worth.

    • You usually can’t arrange for an inspection or even a test drive.
    • You’ll be relying purely on visual checks.
    • Auctions vary from state to state so you’d need to check with the auction house about warranty and money owing.

    What to do when buying a used car privately

    Buying a car privately is usually cheaper than buying from a dealer, but you have to rely a lot more on your own judgment as you won’t get any protection like statutory warranty.

    • Get the car inspected by your state’s motoring authority if you’re not confident.
    • Check if there’s any money owing on the car by calling the vehicle title registry or REV’s in the state the cars registered in.

    Read Also: What Car Rentals Accept Aarp Discounts

    Buying Based On Looks

    Before you even begin looking for a car, whether online or face-to-face, it’s important to assess exactly what you need from your car. If you’re looking for a commuter car, don’t waste your time looking at trucks. If you’re looking for a vehicle that can tow a trailer, don’t bother to look at sports cars.

    Buying A Used Car Privately

    Choosing to buy privately usually means you will get a better deal compared with shopping at a dealership and you may also get an idea of the cars history directly from the owner. Even if you get the cars log books, make sure you check NRMAs Car History report online.

    You may get to meet the previous owner and can obtain the vehicle’s history Any faults found are not covered by Fair Trading*

    *As the title of the vehicle is not guaranteed, any faults found are not covered by Fair Trading. You’ll probably get a cheaper car, but you’re not guaranteed a clear title, and you’ve got no legal backup. A worthwhile check is to cross reference the registration certificate with the owners drivers licence.

    Recommended Reading: What Credit Bureau Do Car Dealers Use

    More articles

    Popular Articles