Ten things to consider when buying a used car

It is more than likely that you are, like me, not a motor mechanic. The decision to buy requires some thought, especially since only mugs or companies buy new cars as you will lose 35% of the car’s value in the first 12 months. There are ten things to consider when buying a used car. For a start, you need to work out what car you really need so that you refine your online search. Next, you will need to have the chosen car checked out by a skilled mechanic or an agency that specialises in pre-purchase inspections. This however, is carried out after you have done your own car inspection based on the checklist in this book.

  1. Work out what car you really need so that you refine your online search.

    • Are you buying your car for family use, a local run-about or do you want a car comfortable for long distances that you intend to use for work purposes? Or something else?

    • Where will you park? If you park offsite at night, look for a car with a secure boot. Any items stored in a hatch back can be accessed from inside and encourages a broken back window.

    • Do you need the car for a specific purpose? e.g., towing a trailer, transporting golf clubs, making a school run with kids and their sports equipment etc.

    • Do you drive around town, or around the country? e.g., a small car might not be suitable for cross-country work trips.  Having cruise control may be helpful for long drives.

    • Do you want petrol or diesel? Or electric?

  2. Always, I mean, always, have your car checked out by a skilled mechanic or an agency that specialises in pre-purchase inspections. If the front rotors and brake pads need replacing and the cost is around $800, I would negotiate a $400 reduction, acknowledging that the new brakes will mean that I will not have a future cost of brake replacement. The negotiated price reduction would far exceed the cost of the inspection. If the report is damming, and you decide to make the sensible decision to walk away, you have just saved yourself a lot of heartache so be happy.

  3. It is important that you carry out a car inspection yourself before you invest in getting a mechanic to see the car. I have created a checklist based on many good suggestions found online. For example, some cars have a cam belt, you just need to know if the model you are after has one, Better cars have a timing chain that last forever.  If the car has a cam belt it can be an expensive replacement and cars are often sold just before they are due.  So ‘buyer beware’ applies.

  4. Buy a car with a four or five-star safety rating and a good reputation for reliability such as Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, or Volkswagen

  5. Buy an automatic, as they are easier to on-sell.  Manuals should be restricted to specialist sports cars.

  6. An old cheap car is best left to an amateur car mechanic as you will need to do endless repairs which will not make the car a cheap one after all.

  7. It is worth targeting cars with low mileage as all the moving parts have done less work.  If two cars, with below average mileage, are the same age and one has travelled 30,000 KMs less it would be worth paying $1,000 more for it.

  8. There is a ‘right time’ to buy a car if you’re buying from a dealer.  As car salespeople have sales targets to reach and bonuses to aim for, you’re best to aim for the end of the month.  Better yet, at the end of the quarter (March, June, September, and December) dealers will want to maximize sales and move cars.  To boost sales, dealers will be more obliging when it comes to negotiating the price.  A quiet dealership is even better – if you can visit on a Monday or Tuesday.  You can negotiate far better than if it’s a weekend after payday and the car yard is filled with half the city.

  9. Never borrow to buy a car.  Save up first. Only borrow on appreciating assets.

  10. Buy a car that will be wanted by others e.g., well-known, and respected brands. This way it is an easy sell. 

Access for FREE the ‘buying a used car checklist’. It covers:

  • Pre-Inspection Essentials

  • Get the car's complete history for a small fee

  • Viewing the car

  • Testing how it drives

  • Questions to ask

  • Always get a pre-purchase inspection if interested

  • Make sure you bargain

  • Before you drive off with your new car