Checklist Before Buying A Second-hand Car

Cars are a heavy and long term investment that requires planning out their financial options. They are luxury for most people and a rare purchase. Due to this, the purchased car must be satisfactory. However, those who do not have the affordability or prefer a car for less cost can opt for second-hand cars. Needless to say, their performance and condition will not be as good as brand new cars, but their price will be significantly lower. This allows people to own a car without having to feel like they just spent their entire life savings on a commodity.

Second-hand car comes at the trade-off though. There is the possibility of you getting ripped off on your second-hand car. Selling party may con you and overcharge that second-hand car or hand you a faultier product. In the worst-case scenario, gullible people get mugged or do not receive the vehicle at all. Here is a checklist for buying a second-hand car to avoid such scenario and help you get the best value out of your hard-earned money.

Set aside a fixed budget

Whether you’re buying from a dealership or a private party, you need to consider an estimated budget for your purchase. Oftentimes when people think of buying a product, they get fixated only on its initial price. This is not enough, as more factors can come into play. You will have to account for interest on your car loan if you take one, maintenance cost, and insurance to safeguard in the event of an accident. These are factors that should not be forgotten if you want to avoid trouble after buying a car. Thus, you need to balance the acquisition cost and the upkeep cost for the car. It is wise to look up the best interest rates for car loans, average maintenance cost, and insurance plans beforehand. Many resources are available online to help you get a good estimate of how much everything can cost you.

Finding the right second-hand car

The next order of business is to find the right car. When you buy a new car, you head to a dealership, negotiate and finalize the purchase. It isn’t as smooth in case of second-hand cars. For starters, you can choose between a dealership or a private party. Dealerships offer more cars to choose from and paperwork is easier but the price is relatively higher. If you wish to buy through a dealership, the process is very straightforward as they will guide you through everything once you select a car. The private party usually owns only one car, doesn’t have wide options of cars to choose from and the paperwork can be a bit more complex. However, you have more freedom over negotiation on pricing. You can browse websites to view a large library of second-hand cars and contact the owners from the comfort of your home.


Once you have found the desired car, the next step is to see how well it holds up. Watch out for any corrosion, rust, scratches or dents on the vehicle.  These might seem like minor things but the cost to repair them is noteworthy. The appearance of a car does not equate to its functional status. So, check that the windows, air conditioning, heater, horn, lights, wipers, seat belts and lights work properly. Have an eye out for cleanliness, seats and check for any foul smell. These are little yet important things that people might forget. Next, look at the tires for any irregular wear and tear and pressure. If the tires are worn out or have excessive damage in certain spots of the tires, it needs replacement. You can hire a mechanic to inspect the car if you want professional help. The seller might be reluctant because they think it’s unnecessary or they might be trying to hide something. A professional mechanic can find issues and inspect the car better than the average person. While this can cost you a notable sum, you can use any issues found on a car as a bargaining chip and potentially even save you more money. If the car requires too much maintenance, the car’s value can plummet as you need to consider the repair cost. Otherwise, you could have the seller repair it first and then negotiate its price. You need to discuss these things with the seller beforehand.

Take it for a test drive

After you have inspected the car, politely ask the seller if you can take the car for a test drive. Unless they have something to hide, they will let you take the car for a test drive. It’s a good idea to have the seller accompany you during the test drive so you can ask questions on the go. If possible, try to drive on your usual route. A few kilometers should give you a good time to figure out how you feel about the car’s driving experience. First off, ignite the keys and observe how quick or slow it starts. Seat properly to see how comfortable you feel and tighten your seat belt. Now, pedal to the metal; observe how smooth the pedals are. As you drive around, you’ll sense how the steering wheel feels, if there are any wheel misalignment and the brakes problems. Take a look at the dashboard and control panel to see if the readings and lights are correct. This is a good time to try out the air conditioning, heater, speakers, and windshield wipers. Meanwhile, listen closely for any strange noises from the engine, transmission or suspension. By the end of your test drive, you should have a good idea of the vehicle- its functional parts, handling, maneuverability, and possible issues.

Red flags for private party sellers

Not every private party sellers are honest so you need to be on your guard. Look at the car’s body and paint. Does the color match evenly across the panels? Mismatched panels are a sign of repaired collision damage. Check tire size and model. Mismatched tire size or models are not a good sign. As long as all the tires size is same and the front two tires matches with the rear two tires, it should be fine. If the seller is unwilling to let you inspect certain parts of the car, it is a giant red flag. You would do well to walk away when the seller isn’t willing to disclose information. This is the same for the test drive. If the seller is unwilling or puts needless restrictions, they have something to hide and it is simply not worth your time.


Dealerships will make the paperwork easy for you. Nevertheless, you have to read the terms properly before you sign the paper. For a private party seller, many documents and legal paperwork need to be carried out correctly. It can save you hassle if you research about required paperwork beforehand. Depending on where you live, the essential documents can differ but certain information like registration certificate, service-related documents, sales receipt, insurance, form 32 and 35 are a must. If you are unfamiliar with legal terms related to automobiles, it can help a lot learn about it preemptively.

In summary, a sufficient budget, inspection, test drive and paperwork knowledge is all you need to find the right car. You should be in an excellent position once you know who to avoid while making a deal. Now, you are ready to begin the hunt for a second-hand car.