What to look for when buying a used carĀ 

Buying a used car

Buying any car is a big decision; from the finances to the features, it’s a sea of information to wade through.

While new cars are all the same off the factory line and can take some time to arrive, used cars come with their own personality.  

However, there’s a few things to get in order to help your search for the perfect pre-loved car. Here’s some helpful tips to drive your search and get you moving.

Understand your budget

The first thing to do when buying a car is set yourself a budget based on the maximum amount you are willing to pay for your car. You may seek financial support in the form of a loan, so make sure to speak to your bank first to understand how much you could borrow.

Remember, a car has running costs too, so make sure that you’re considering costs such as fuel, registration, maintenance and insurance into your budget too. 

Do your research

Next, it’s time to research. When looking for your used car, consider what car would suit your needs, and which fits within your budget. Make sure to assess your most affordable options based on how you will use your vehicle, for example if you're considering switching to an electric vehicle this would be a big influence on your choice in car. 

Know your purchasing options

Unlike with brand new cars, there are different ways for you to purchase a used car, each with benefits:

Private sellers

With private sellers, you benefit from having in-depth and personal information from the car owner, and the ability to inspect it at your leisure. Direct contact with the seller means that you’re in a better position to haggle on the price, too.


An auction means that you need to be prepared with your maximum budget in advance, and be clear that once the auction is won, the car is yours without conditions. Inspections may be scarce, so ensure you are comfortable with the car’s condition and you’ve got your purchase funds sorted before jumping in.

Car dealerships

You can also buy a used car from a car dealer, however these can come at a higher price. Purchasing from a dealership comes with benefits though, including safety inspections and a cooling off period to finalise your decision.

Take a closer look at the used car

When you start finalising cars that you like, it’s time to take a closer look. Always make sure to inspect key features and ask for background information to make sure your decision is a good one.

Here's some questions you can ask your seller:

  • How long did you/the previous owner own the car?
  • What is your reason for selling?
  • Are there any issues with the car, or previous repairs?
  • What is the service history?

When you visit the car, here are some things you can do for extra due diligence.

  1. Check the current registration and service history paperwork
  2. Test drive the car
  3. Check the engine - It may help you to obtain an independent inspection by a qualified mechanic. Many of us don’t know what we are looking at when we pop the hood, so calling in an expert can make a bit difference.
  4. Look at the interior quality - check the condition of the seats, dashboards and carpets
  5. Check the exterior quality and tyre wear - don't forget the pare tire)
  6. Check the mileage on the car matches what was advertised

Happy that the car meets your expectations? Great! It's time to negotiate your price and if the deal is done, sign some paperwork.

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