7 Steps You Must Take When Buying a Second-Hand Car

Posted by Lydia on 6 November 2018

Categorised in General

Buying a car can feel a bit complex and stressful, whether you’re buying new or second-hand. But when it’s the latter, it can seem like it's twice as hard.


That's because when buying new, you’re sure to have some advice and help from the dealership as you go through the process, and you have the manufacturer's warranty to back up the vehicle.


But when you're buying a vehicle second-hand, those support resources may not be available to you. And due to the vehicle being used, there can be some greater risk factors involved. To help you navigate the process, here are 7 steps you should take when buying a used vehicle.

1. Get the market price

The first thing to do if you've found a used car you like is to get a sense of its market price. This helps you confirm if the sales price it’s been offered at is reasonable or not.


It also means you can negotiate and look to reduce the price with confidence, knowing there are other options out there in the event that the seller tries playing hardball. With over 1,189,000 cars sold new in 2017, there’s no shortage of buyers and sellers in the marketplace. So don’t be afraid to negotiate hard once you know the vehicle’s value.

2. Finalise financing


If you're buying your car with savings, this step will be easy. If you're buying your car with financing, it’s crucial to ensure you have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s here.


Once someone signs a contract to buy a car, it’s expected they will pay the full amount stated. There can be special provisions that allow a buyer to pull out in case financing falls through, but ultimately it’s always best to avoid these headaches and have financing finalised before entering into a contract. That way, once the perfect car has been found, it's easy to seal the deal then and there with peace of mind.

3. Ensure the vehicle is registered and is roadworthy

Once you’ve found a vehicle you like, ask the seller to show proof that the vehicle is registered and roadworthy. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t have both documents right away – sometimes vehicles are fine but just need their registration renewed – but if the owner is selling their car, it’s always best that these two requirements are sorted out by them. If they are unwilling or unable to do this, the car may still be worth buying, but be sure to negotiate down the price accordingly given the extra time and cost that will be required on your end to do these tasks.


A roadworthy certificate will confirm a vehicle is safe to drive on public roads. It won’t guarantee the car has no issues, however. That’s why arranging for a vehicle inspection with your local state or territory roadside assistance club (or equivalent) is essential.

4. Check for any manufacturer's quirks

Even after your roadworthy test has come back OK, it’s really important to check for any quirks unique to your model type. A classic example of this is seen in certain Ford Fairmont models with their electric window issues. For Ford fans, this isn't a deal-breaker, but buyers should be aware this quirk exists. Many cars have some similar quirk, so be sure you know what you're getting into ahead of time.

5. Put the vehicle through its paces

Too many motorists make the mistake of just going for a quick drive around the block with a car they're considering buying. A proper test drive should see the car go through a variety of speeds in a variety of traffic conditions. The car may have a smooth transmission when it changes gears on the freeway, but that won’t count for much if its engine conks out and loses power waiting at a red light in city traffic.

6. Take it to your mechanic

In addition to going for a test drive, it’s really important to have your mechanic look at any vehicle you're considering before you sign on the dotted line. Roadworthy reports are good, but sometimes they can make a big deal out of small problems, just as some sellers may want to make a small problem out of something that is actually a big issue.


That’s why having a good working relationship with your mechanic and getting their insight is so important. It’s ultimately your mechanic who will fix any issue with your car, so they'll be able to give your car a clean bill of health, or let you know the potential costs of undertaking any repairs that are required. This can be really handy when it comes to negotiating down the price if you have to get some servicing done before your used car is 100% ready to drive each day.

7. Keep in mind second-hand cars aren't perfect

It’s really important to be diligent and go through these checks when buying a used car. This ensures you can maximise the benefits of your purchase while reducing the downsides. These 7 steps can help you be certain you’ve got a solid plan in place to achieve this. At the same time, it is wise to keep in mind that a second-hand car will often come with some minor imperfections – and that’s completely normal.


So don’t be deterred if it's just a small problem, especially if your mechanic has said it's an easy fix. There are many fantastic cars out there available new and used at really affordable prices, so the idea of buying a vehicle second-hand is always worth exploring. It’s possible to get a great vehicle second-hand for a fraction of the price you’d pay if purchased brand new.


While it may take some time and patience, it can really pay off in the end as you get a solid vehicle at a terrific price. So search with confidence through all the car listings, and look forward to buying your next vehicle.


What other steps do you feel are important when buying a second-hand car? Let us know in the comments below:


Image: Pixabay


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