Buying a Used Car: 10 Mistakes to Avoid

Buying a Used Car: 10 Mistakes to Avoid

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Buying a used car can be a cost-efficient alternative to owning a vehicle as long as you're purchasing one in good condition and with little to no processing complications. Being more affordable than a new vehicle, it enables you to own a car for personal or business use in the shortest time possible—even if you are short on cash or do not have enough money for the down payment if you're purchasing it through a car loan.

Being already “used” for a time, however, the preloved car may also come with several issues that could affect your driving experience. Thus, it is essential to understand the complexities of used car-buying to efficiently negotiate prices and get a great deal.

To minimise the risk of buying a faulty or problematic used car, avoid these ten car-buying mistakes:

1. Not defining your budget

Before shopping used cars for sale, it is essential to define your budget. This will help you effectively limit your spending to what you can afford, as well as strategies a budget plan on how you’re going to pay for it. Doing so will also help you avoid being persuaded by a charming yet shrewd seller into buying a used car way above your income.

If you don't have enough cash on hand to buy a preloved automobile in full, you can take out a loan to finance the purchase. However, you would need to provide a down payment of at least 20% of the car's total purchase price. Aside from the down payment, your budget would also need to factor in your monthly loan repayments. There are many free car loan calculators online that can help you get a good estimate of your loan repayments.

2. Not having a preference

Just because you have enough money to buy a preloved car in good condition doesn't mean you should buy it. Buying stuff on a whim usually leads to wasted money simply because you may find no purpose for them. If you haven't carefully thought of your used car purchase, you could end up with an old car that will only sit in your garage. This is likely to happen if you already own several vehicles of the latest models.

Buying a used car should be influenced by purpose. Do you need a preloved vehicle for business or personal use? Do you plan to drive it on a daily basis or only on special occasions? Are you driving your loved ones in it or will it be used to haul and transport cargo? All these considerations will define the type of preloved vehicle that you're getting. A ute with high towing capacity is ideal for commercial use while SUVs with a large interior are perfect for family trips.

Aside from purpose, you should also consider the car's:

  • Size and Specs
  • Look and Aesthetic
  • Infotainment and Safety Features
  • Fuel Efficiency
  • Warranties
  • Age

3. Shopping based on monthly payments

If you're planning to buy a used car through a car loan, using your monthly payments as the sole basis in calculating and calculating prices is not smart. A low monthly payment may seem affordable and friendly on your budget but it would require a long time to complete. This would mean that you would end up paying back more money. Take note that the interest of your loan is calculated in your monthly repayments--The longer your car loan runs, the more interest you would have to pay.

Also, a car's value depreciates over time. Although a used car doesn't depreciate as fast as a new one, it still loses 15 to 20 per cent of value each year. In other words, reselling your already second-hand car to a new buyer would be very difficult.

4. Failing to run a vehicle history report

It's essential to run a vehicle history report before buying a secondhand vehicle. Much like doing a background check for a prospective employee, checking the history of the car before it becomes yours will help you avoid future problems. The vehicle may come with multiple hidden issues that your naked eye cannot detect, like flood damage or a rolled back odometer.

Aside from technical issues, the vehicle history report will also tell you how many previous owners the cars had, how many times it was involved in an accident, and if it’s been declared a total loss by an insurance company.

Do not also forget to check if the vehicle has been recalled. Check with the National Highway Traffic Administration’s database of recalls and see if the car you're eyeing to buy is on the list. If it does, do not buy the car unless the seller can prove that the recall issue has been addressed. There are millions of car owners with recall orders for safety defects who have chosen to ignore the notice. Buying a recalled vehicle that hasn't been repaired will only put your life at risk.

5. Skipping the test drive

One of the most important parts of buying a vehicle is the test drive, which gives you a first-hand actual idea of how the car performs on the road. This is also the time to get a feel of what it's like to drive and be inside the car for hours. Aside from its quality of driving, you can check to see if its infotainment and safety features work.

Does it feel comfortable sitting behind the wheels or do you feel cramped? Does the car has enough power and pick up when accelerating? Does it run fast enough or it's too slow for your tastes? Are there any features that are not working? These questions and more will be answered during the test drive.

If your time and seller allow, it is best to do the road test on various driving terrains and conditions, like in the crowded city, narrow suburbs, smooth highway pavements, rough hills, and wet roads. The longer you do it, you more you'll be able to assess your driving experience.

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6. Not inspecting the car in person

Despite your busy schedule, find the time to check the car in person. What you see online may not be what it really looks like in person. A careful inspection of the exterior and interior car parts and accessories will also help you detect mechanical and structural issues. If you don't know much about cars, have someone knowledgeable about vehicles do the inspection with yours.

Pay special attention to the car's engine, which is what a brain is to the human body. Also, be wary of any rust, dents, and other damage that suggests serious wear and tear as these are tell-tale signs that the car has not been properly maintained.

7. Not talking to the seller

Meeting the seller face-to-face is more than just inspecting the vehicle or doing a test drive. It is also the perfect time to ask for more information about the car. Questions that can give you insight into the car's performance include:

  • Why are you selling the car?
  • How long has it been in your possession?
  • Do you drive it regularly?
  • Is there anything that bothers you about the car?

If the seller has posted about the car online, also read his review to get a better sense of what you are getting.

8. Skipping the pre-purchase inspection (PPI)

A PPI is different from personal inspection. It is performed by an independent, third-party professional and licensed mechanic. It involves the thorough inspection of the car's condition (quality, safety and performance) before a purchase offer is made. It also ensures that any previous damage on the car has been properly repaired.

Depending on the chosen mechanic, type of car to be inspected, and how comprehensive the inspection, the rate for PPIs falls between $100 to $400. This cost is nothing compared to thousands of dollars you would save on future repairs should you decide to buy the vehicle.

After the inspection, the mechanic discusses the vehicle's existing condition and highlight the potential issues that could arise in the future. This knowledge will give you leverage in your price negotiations.

Essential car parts that are checked during the PPI include:


  • Engine components (exhaust, fuel, transmission, battery, coolant)
  • Emissions system


  • Shocks, coil springs, axles, and frame
  • Exhaust system and brakes
  • Tires


  • The steering wheel and steering column
  • Horn and its sound
  • Brakes (brake pads, brake pedal, parking brake)
  • Seatbelts


  • License plate
  • Windows and windshield
  • Doors, windows, and wiper blades
  • Exterior lights and blinkers
  • Bumpers

9. Not asking for the car’s title and other legal docs

To avoid the tragic experience of buying a used car that isn't really registered to its seller, always ask for the car's title, registration, bill of sale, and copies of all other documents papers necessary to register the car in your name. Aside from the car keys, these legal papers are important to prove that you are its new owner. You will also need these information to purchase car insurance.

Because of the importance of these documents, always make sure that the information they contain are 100% accurate.

10. Not asking for any car warranty

If you're buying a used car that's only about three or four years old, check with seller if there any car warranties left. Vehicles that are not older than five years and have low mileage may still be covered by a warranty. If there's any, ask the seller to transfer that coverage to your name. These available warranties will give you free repairs for common car problems like engine trouble and roadside assistance like towing, flat tire service, and extrication.

Ready to purchase your next car? Reach out to our expert car loan specialists on 1300 722 210 or fill out the Loan Pre-Approval form. We'll help you find the best car loan deal in as little time as possible.

See also:

When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

How to Buy a Ute: Tips for First-Time Buyers

8 Tricks to Manage Your Car Loan Effectively

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