Essential Tips for Buying a Used Car


Buying a used car can be a stressful process. Unlike with a new car, purchased from a manufacturer dealership, you may not be offered a warranty period with the vehicle, leaving you to pick up the bill should any mechanical failure take place within the first few months of ownership.

Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to make the used car buying process as smooth and as straightforward as possible. This guide will give you all the information you require to buy your next used car with confidence.

Private Sale vs Used Car Garage

Your first step is in deciding whether you intend to buy from a private seller who has listed their vehicle in a local classified ad or via a larger used car garage who will have a considerable range of vehicles to choose from.

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages which include:

  • Buying from an individual should result in a cheaper car of the same type due to the seller not experiencing the overheads and profit margin a garage would.
  • Buying from a private seller will leave you with no legal comeback if the car is faulty. It is your job as the buyer to make sure the vehicle is mechanically sound.
  • Buying from a garage or dealership will usually give you a warranty. It won’t be all encompassing and will likely only be for a period of 3 – 6 months from the date of purchase but it should still offer some peace of mind.
  • Vehicle finance will only be available from a garage or dealership. If buying privately you will need to find the cash or take out a loan.

Finding the Right Car

You now need to find the right vehicle for your needs. You might have a specific make and model in mind or you might have a specific size requirement. If this is the case then you should compile a shortlist of suitable vehicles and conduct an online search to see if there are any appropriate models in your local area.

Check the Mechanicals and Overall Condition

Most people aren’t too familiar with how a car works or what they should be looking out for when buying a used one. If this is you, consider taking a knowledgeable friend or hiring the services of a mechanic so that they can perform a onceover.

For any car you do consider, perform the following:

  • Check the engine oil level – it should be neither too high or too low. Any sign of a white milky substance should be avoided as it signifies a likely head gasket problem.
  • Check the level of all fluid reservoirs.
  • Check the amount of material left on brake discs and pads.
  • Perform a test drive and look out for knocks or clunks coming from anywhere, inside or out.

The key is in making sure the car drives well on an extended test drive. To lessen the risk further, consider buying from a dealership who offers a comprehensive warranty. Many dealerships hold a used car sale every few months to entice buyers. When negotiating, make sure an extended warranty is at the top of your list.

The more thorough you are during the buying process, the less likely you are to experience problems later down the road.