Find Your Dream Car: Tips for Buying a Pre-Owned Vehicle

When purchasing a used car, whether it’s your first or an upgrade, there are numerous factors to take into account. With so many considerations, it can be challenging to know where to start and finish. However, with proper research and planning, buying a pre-owned vehicle can be made less stressful. Here are some tips to assist you in finding the ideal used car to meet all your requirements!

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1. The Type of the Used Car You Want

Before proceeding to other plans, you should, first of all, think about the specific brand or model of secondhand vehicle you want to buy. After making this decision, you can proceed to the other plans listed below.

2. Search for Used Vehicle within Your Region

After deciding on the specific model or brand of the used auto to buy, it is advisable to go for those available in your neighborhood. This will make things easier, particularly when visiting to see it yourself. You will spare the amount you would use to travel to other far places to see the vehicle’s conditions. The amount saved can help to fuel your car once bought.

3. Contact the Seller

Before contacting the seller to inquire more about its conditions, you can’t decide whether you will buy the car you’ve just found. You must tell them that you are interested in the vehicle they are selling. Then request them to share more details regarding it.

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Some of the things you should be targeting to know at this point include;

  • The vehicle’s history,
  • The reason for selling it,
  • Does it have any mechanical issues,
  • When you can visit to see the car’s condition,
  • The cost of the vehicle and
  • Payment mode they accept – can you pay half and clear the balance with a monthly installment?

Don’t be limited to the above; there are many things you can ask. Just remember the more questions you ask, the more information you will get. Don’t be surprised to hear the seller mention items not included in the ads. These things can either encourage or discourage you from buying.

4. Think About Its Cost

You have now identified the car and contacted the seller. Now proceed to plan on how to finance it. The first thing here is comparing the amount you have and the car costs. If the price is below or within your budget, you will easily finance it.

But if the price is much higher than your spending plan, you might want to consider taking loans. Supposing this is the case, take caution not to apply for loans higher than 10% of your net income. We suggest this because your used vehicle will supposedly demand attention regularly.

Also, a high amount of loans for financing a secondhand vehicle may be a burden considering you will be paying for its insurance, maintenance costs, fuel, etc., and still want to meet other needs.

5. Look for A Reputable Mechanic in Your Region

You are bow almost set to go and see the used cars advertised. Before going, consult any reputable mechanics in your region.

They are knowledgeable individuals with a lot of experience in the automotive industry. As such, they know what to inspect when buying a new or used vehicle. Their report is beneficial as it can help you avoid the car or give you a base for your negotiations.

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6. Plan and Go for Vehicle Inspection

You have now gathered much information regarding the vehicle but have not yet seen it physically. You may have seen its photos, but that cannot and should not satisfy you! Pictures can’t capture all the details, so you need to see it one-on-one.

Hoping you agreed with the seller on when and where to go for inspections (in step 3), go with your mechanic.

7. Inspecting the Car

It is now your time to see the car. You are one-on-one with the seller, and the vehicle is visible to you. There’s nothing else other than a thorough inspection to determine whether you will buy or not.

We urge you and your mechanic to check on the following to make the proper inspection.

Engine conditions

The first and the most important thing to check on should be the engine. It is the heart of your vehicle. When it is in good condition, so does your car. Checking the engine involves examining things such as


These are the first and most obvious things that should tell you the vehicle’s engine has issues. It would help if you began by checking on the outer part of the engine before going deeper. Examine carefully to see if you can note any sign of a fluid leak. Don’t forget to check whether there are oil stains on the tarmac where the car is parked.

Now open the engine to check the interiors for other possible leaks. If you notice any leaks, you have two options; bargain the price so that you can spare some amount to fix the issue, or avoid the car and look for other deals elsewhere.

Exhaust Smoke Colors

If you didn’t find any issue with the vehicle’s engine, proceed to check the exhaust smoke color. To do this, you or your mechanic must start the engine and go to the back of the auto. A minor of white smoke is usually considered normal. However, if it persists, you need to ask questions. Blue smoke is serious as it could mean the vehicle engine is burning – the oil could be reaching the cylinder, or the head gasket could be having issues. Black smoke could mean the vehicle’s engine is burning excess fuel.

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Inspecting Gearbox & Clutch

Unlike the leaks and the smoke colors, the clutch and gearbox conditions can be felt and not seen. Regarding gearbox, there are two types, namely, automatic and manual gearboxes.

Although these are meant to function differently, they should serve the same purpose – engaging all the gears effortlessly and quietly. If they can’t, then there’s a problem.

For manual used cars, the clutch’s biting point (where the car gets into motion when releasing the clutch pedal) should be roughly at the middle of the clutch pedal travel distance. If the vehicle doesn’t move until you fully release the clutch, there could be an issue. It can either be a minor adjustment or a costly replacement.

Inspecting the Bodywork

Checking the bodywork of the vehicle is pretty easy; you must look at the car keenly to find whether there is anything to warn you. Essentially, you should look for repairing, rust, or repainting signs – they can mean it has had issues before!

Don’t forget to check the inside and underneath.

Inspecting Wheels and Tires

This is also a visual thing, and hence it is effortless. For wheels, you should look for things such as bents wheel or dents in the rim. And for tires, you should look for issues such as cuts, bulges, splits, gauges, uneven tire wear, tire wearing at the middle/edges, etc. These problems could mean misalignment or indicate the car’s crush.

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Warning Lights & Mileage

Now enter into the driver’s seat and start the engine. Check if you can confirm the warning lights are working and the mileage is as claimed in the advertisement. As you do all that, be keen not to be lured by “clocked” motors or fake odometer (the vehicle odometer should be consistent with wearing gearstick, seats, and pedal conditions – if otherwise, the mileage could be faked!)


Vehicles have a lot of electrical work, which can quickly go wrong when mishandled. The most crucial electrical work is the lighting system. You need to ensure this is working correctly, or you will buy a vehicle that will be mind-nagging once it gets dark.

Other systems to check include the radio system, climate control, infotainment system, etc. (check everything advertised)

Test the Vehicle

If you are satisfied with all the above steps, consider a test drive. This is the most critical as it will help you see and experience the ins and outs of the vehicle. Try it at various speeds at note what happens as you accelerate and slow down – are the brakes working perfectly? How about the engine sounds at different speeds?

Car documentation

You are now almost finalizing your deal. But before that, request the vehicle’s documentation to verify all the information advertised. For example, the history of the car and its mileage, etc.

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You may want to negotiate the price depending on what you noticed when examining the secondhand car. If you noted things that need to be done, ask the seller to reduce the cost so that you have some cash to cater to those issues.

Wrapping Up

Although buying second-hand cars isn’t an arduous process, it needs keenness, or otherwise, you will regret it at some point later. Don’t hop into the market and buy whatever you come across blindly – consider our tips above, and we bet you will want to thank us sooner or later.