Buying a secondhand car? 8 Essential tips for first-time car buyers

Buying a secondhand car? 8 Essential tips for first-time car buyers

A significant and exciting ‘adulting’ milestone is buying a car. Opting for a second-hand vehicle is smart; saving you money and providing you with more options within your budget. Navigating the used car market, however, can be daunting, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the process. There are a few essential tips worth considering before you sign to help you make an informed decision. 

So, before buying a secondhand car, step into the driver’s seat and take responsibility by checking the following boxes: 

#1 Know what you can actually afford 

No matter how careful you’ve been in squirrelling away some savings, it’s always best to temper your optimism with a dose of industry realism when buying a second-hand car. Before diving into the world of pre-loved cars to find the one you love – and pre-empting your shortlist – seriously determine your budget. Consider not only the purchase price but also ongoing expenses such as insurance, maintenance and fuel prices.

#2 Do your homework by shopping around

Once you’ve had a reality check and your budget is set, do some targeted due diligence by researching the second-hand car market. Look for makes and models that fit your needs and your proposed budget. Online resources – such as automotive websites, forums and reviews – can provide valuable information about pricing, reliability and common issues for specific cars.

Do your homework when buying a secindhand car

#3 Buy from a reputable source

Your budget may be set and your vehicle shortlist sorted, but who you buy a used car from is crucial in this game. (You have options: buying from a private seller, from a dealer or from an online car-selling platform). Consider options like certified pre-owned (CPO) programmes offered by dealerships or verified online car dealers. Private sellers can also be a viable option but be sure to do thorough research and consider having a trusted mechanic inspect the car before purchasing. 

#4 Do a background check (on the car)

Finally, the moment has come; your potential ‘new’ wheels are but a signature away. Exciting stuff! But hold your horses. Always request a comprehensive vehicle history report for any used car you’re interested in. Doing a VIN check will allow you to make an informed decision by providing you with a detailed history and valuable information about a car’s past, including accidents, title status, and maintenance records. 

#5 Don’t be fooled by a vehicle’s looks

If you know a mechanic or a ‘petrol head,’ we would suggest you don’t leave home without one when buying a second-hand car. Never just make a judgement on outward appearance; it may work on Tinder, but not when buying a used car.  Always perform a thorough inspection of the car. 

A basic pre-purchase inspection should include the following:

  • Looking for signs of wear and tear, such as rust, dents, and worn tires.
  • Checking the engine, transmission, and other vital components. 

#6 Take the car for a spin

A test drive is a really good idea and an essential exercise to evaluate how a car performs on the road. Engage your head and your heart by paying attention to factors like engine noise, handling, and comfort. Test all the car’s features, including the air conditioning, stereo, and electrical systems. If something doesn’t feel right, ask questions and consider it a potential negotiation point. Bring a mate (or mechanic) along for a second opinion. 

When buying a used car take it for a test drive

#7 Do some ‘wheeling and dealing’ 

Never be afraid to negotiate the price when buying a second-hand car, especially if you have a good reason based on your inspection and research. Be polite but firm, and be prepared to walk away if the seller isn’t willing to negotiate within your budget. Patience can be your ally during negotiations. (Just as there are many fish in the sea, so there are many pre-loved vehicles out there). 😉

#8 Read the small print

Carefully review all the paperwork involved in the purchase, including the title, bill of sale, and any warranties. Make sure everything is in order and that you understand the terms and conditions. If you’re unsure about any aspect, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice or consult with an expert.  

The adrenaline rush of buying a second-hand car as a first-time buyer is real. But make sure it’s also a rewarding experience by being savvy and following the above tips. With careful research, inspection, and negotiation, you will find a reliable used car that is just right for you and that will bring you many hours of driving pleasure. 

Happy car hunting!