What to look for when buying a used car 

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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, used cars are different and so it’s worth getting up to speed with what to look out for.

However, there’s a few things to get in order before your search to find your perfect pre-loved car can start. 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 fuel economy can be a great deciding factor.

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.

What to look for

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:

  • Current registration and service history paperwork
  • Test drive the car
  • Check engine - obtaining an independent inspection by a qualified mechanic will help here. 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.
  • Look at interior quality
  • Exterior quality and tyre wear
  • Speak to seller about time owned and reason for selling
  • Check mileage

Paying for a car and having insurance

Depending on the age and value of your chosen car, you may be eligible to apply for either a car loan, or a personal loan to help with your finance.

Organising car insurance once you’ve purchased but before you drive away is another important aspect of owning a vehicle.

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