10 Tips for Buying a Used Car

Car buyers often wonder why new cars are so expensive. One of the major causes of sticker shock is their manufacturing process's costs, R&D, and overheads. A new car's labor and material are nothing but a fraction of its value. A vehicle's high price is therefore not an indicator of superior quality or craftsmanship. 

For this reason, a manufacturer's sales volume will determine a new vehicle's price tag. As car prices soar, most buyers turn to used cars and therefore need tips for buying a used car. Are used cars a poor choice for the driver on a budget? No, they are not.

Do you know that a new vehicle loses 10% of its value when it leaves the sales yard? It will lose 20% of its value within its first year of use. In three years, which is just about the best time to buy a used car, that spanking new vehicle will have lost close to half of its value. 

Used cars are a screaming deal for buyers on a budget because, as per CNN Business, SUVs and cars can last 200,000 miles of use. A used 100,000 miles car, therefore, has lots of life in it. Perhaps the only thing that you will miss from it is the latest gadgetry.

Opting for a used car is a smart investment that will save you a significant amount of money since its original owner shoulders the cost of the steep depreciation. However, buying a used car is not a no-muss, no-fuss process, as is purchasing a new vehicle. 

 Tips for buying a used car

It has several pitfalls since you do not have the safety net of a new car factory warranty. 


Below we provide you 10 tips which will facilitate the process of buying a used car:

1. Get your finances in order first

Buying a car is a big investment that requires budgetary planning by ensuring you have enough finances and are getting the right deal. There are several ways to finance a vehicle ranging from straightforward cash, personal loan, or vehicle loan. 

Ensure that you draw up a budget that factors in your vehicle's initial deposit and its monthly installments. Sometimes a deal may offer low monthly installments but will, in the end, make your car's net price higher than the used car's market limits. 

Work out the cost of buying and owning your car, including its insurance, repair, and maintenance. To get the best deal, compare car prices on used car websites. If you make a blind buy, you will most certainly pay over the odds. 

2. Shop for the right car 

Finding the perfect used car is more difficult than it is finding the right new vehicle.   When shopping for a used car, you need to consider its overall look, the health of bodywork, mileage, and maintenance. One other excellent tip for buying a used vehicle is striking a good balance between cost to own and cost to buy. A bottom-priced car could cost you more in repairs in the long run.

You will not find a used car that meets all your preferences, but you should take your time and find one that meets a majority of your requirements. For this reason, research is a vital part of the used car purchase process. 

So, how do you kick off your used car research process?

  • Visit websites that rank and review used cars. Use online car ranking and review sites and look for consensus opinions from car experts.

  • Study the professional opinions of top automotive bloggers. Look out for any quantifiable data on the car's safety profile and level of reliability. 

  • Use car book value tools to close in on a model’s trade-in value

  • Choose your vehicle build and compares makes and models 

3. Check your final choice's history

Mileage is a crucial selling point for a used vehicle, and some sellers will falsify it by clocking it. Conversely, they will lower their vehicle's mileage to reap more from its sale. To ensure that you are not getting ripped off, compare a used car's mileage to its overall wear and tear. 

Study its gear knob, pedal rubbers, and steering wheel and compare these feature's conditions to that of its bodywork. Should there be discrepancies, strike it from your list. Read its service certificates and check for mileage readings consistency. It is also possible to access car mileage data from reputable dealer's history checks.

While buying a used car spares you the cost of new car depreciation, it also exposes you to risks such as purchasing a vehicle that has been involved in a serious accident. You could encounter an unscrupulous seller that patches up a severely damaged vehicle and puts it back on the road. A buyer might therefore get a raw deal that also affects their safety while on the road. 

Below are some signs of a damaged but repaired used car:

  • Color mismatch on various body panels

  • Brand new vehicle parts on an old vehicle. New lights or airbag covers could signify an earlier fender bender

  • Presence of panel gaps on its bodywork

  • Poor alignment and uneven tire wear

  • Welding marks and rust

  • Fresh bodywork undercoat

  • Creased panels and missing screws

4. Review all its paperwork  

All its registration documents, such as its logbook and chassis numbers details, should be in order. All elements in the logbook should match those of the vehicle. Your sales contract should have the correct pricing. Should you use a car dealer to finance the car, have a financing agreement in place before sealing the deal.

5. Insurance and tax

Insurance and tax are costs that may inflate the cost of the car beyond its purchase price. Make advance plans for car insurance upon purchase, as you will be responsible for any risks after-sales.  Also, find out the amount of tax to be paid on the car.

One more thing, vehicle accidents will adversely affect a used car's insurance premiums. If your vehicle of choice has been involved in expensive property damage or an at-fault injury accident, its insurance rates could rise by 38%. Think of a car accident as a red flag to insurers. 

Some factors that will affect a used car's auto rates after an accident include its insurer, location, prior accident record, and driver's age. Younger drivers receive higher premiums after an accident than mature drivers do.

6. Consider a certified pre-owned car

If you are reserved about making a no-warranty car purchase, opt for pre-owned cars that are manufacturer-certified. Most manufacturer-certified vehicles are low mileage, well serviced accident-free vehicles that were either leased, loaned, or owned by the dealership service. In addition, these vehicles have undergone comprehensive inspection and refurbishment in line with the manufacturer's guidelines. 

7. Don’t forget to test drive your car

Research shows that close to 16% of used car buyers forego a test drive before car purchase. On the other hand, new car buyers may conduct as many as seven test drives before sealing the deal. 

Failing to test the car may expose you to a lot of after-sale challenges and risks. A test drive is more than just clambering behind the wheel. It's a moment to look, listen, touch, feel, and smell anything that may reveal the car's actual condition. 

A test drive gives the buyer a chance to test the car's working conditions, assess its quality, and gauge its performance. It is also the right moment to ask and get answers on any glaring issues.

During a test drive, ensure the car drives and handles correctly and also performs to your expectation. How does it start? Is there looseness in its steering system? Are there unusual sounds from the brakes and engine or excessive smoke from the exhaust? 

Sunlight will reveal a poor paint job or dents better than street lamps will. Ensure that its power windows and features as the AC work as they should in different settings.

8. Seek professional opinion

Many buyers close the deal after testing the car. It is a better-used car purchase practice to have a professional inspection, too, though it may cost you an extra dollar. A professional will settle any doubts and uncover any hidden issues to ensure that you have the right valuation.

Some car dealers foot the cost of inspection as part of the deal. If you are buying from a private seller, you may have to foot its inspection bill.

9. Ensure nothing is missing

Ensure the car has the necessary tools in its toolbox and its spare wheels and repair kits. Look out for the original jack and locking alloy wheel nuts. Also, ensure that you have its spare keys and verify whether all its features, such as sat-nav discs and SD cards, are fully functional.

10. Keep it simple at the dealership

Start with the basics like the price as you build up your negotiations into the car's details and the deal. Finally, put all agreements in writing and have your copy signed and in your pocket. Your contract should highlight all price, addresses, terms of sales, and vehicle details information.


Buying a used car is not an easy task. It requires extensive research and thorough financing organization. Use the tips for buying a used car above as a guide to ensure you get true value and utility from your new vehicle.