21 steps to buying a used car

Things  to do when you want to buy a used-car.

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If you want to buy a used-car and you want to evaluate it by yourself you must know some details. Even if you know what to do, it is better to have a to-do-list, in order not to forget anything. Obviously, the most efficient way is to ask an advice from an expert and it is even better to go to an expert with the owner of the car. There are some stages of purchasing a car.

First of all you have to decide about some aspects:

  • The fuel

The type of fuel is one of the most important things in the whole operation of buying a car. You have to decide from the beginning what type of fuel would you prefer because this is felt in cost and performance.

  • The information

Read and watch presentations and opinions about the wanted car. Make sure that you have read tops about reliability and safety. Compare between cars before choosing it.

  • The body

It is very important to choose your car according to your family and social situation. If you have a large family, a two-door car is not the best choice. If  you travel with pets in transport cages you need a  hatchback. If most of the time you stay in the car you have to take care about your personal comfort. And the list can go on. Think of the way the passengers stay in the car, if they have enough space and how a child car seat is situated in the backseat of the car. Think about the purpose of the car and what is it for.

  • Consumption

It is very important to know how much fuel a car can consume. Calculate the number of the miles traveled in a year compared to the price of the fuel and then you can say if it fits your budget.

  • Time value

If you intend to keep a car a certain period of time, check the sale prices of the older cars   from the actual moment with the same features and see how much money you can recover from the initial value of the car.


Now that you decided  you must know that a used-car can offer some clues about its condition, without believing all the sayings of the car salesman or of  the owner of the car. You need to consider the following aspects:

  • Price

If the price is below market price, that car or even the salesman may seem suspicious. Check and compare similar cars and get rid off those cars which have unjustified price increases.

  • Vehicle registration document( VRD)  and the papers of the car

Ask for the VRD and check if all the inspections were made. There should not be any blank periods in the vehicle registration document. The papers of the car must be original and the  series written in them must be written on the car also.

  • The owners

It is high important to know how many owners the car had and, eventually, to have their contacts in order to check the car history. There are many stories that do not match. You must check if the one who sells the car is the owner of it. It the car is sold by an intermediate person this person must have a power of attorney in order to sell the car in the name of the owner.

  • VIN

VIN written on the car body must be written also in the car papers. VIN must help you to see if there are any differences on the tachometer and if the car had any accidents.

  • Colour

The car must have an uniform colour all over its surface, not to have air bubbles or irregular paint stains. The paint must not have any signs of rust. The best checks are made at thresholds, under the car and under the car mats.

  • Doors, boot, bonnet and the shield

These must be checked by repeated openings and closings. The glass weather-strip must be equally spreaded and not to be seen any empty surfaces. If the car had an accident it is possible that the doors not to close properly. If the shield is not in a good shape there is necessary to check the car more closely and in detail and it is highly recommended to ask the opinion of a specialist.

  • Car windows

The windows must work properly and in the moment of openings and closings not to be heard any noise.  If all the windows are electrically powered they must work fast and if they are manually powered they must be used in a safe and easy way.

  • Stuffing and the texture of the dashboard

They must have the same colour and not to have any signs of rupture or degradation, not to have signs of mold, mold smell or mud. The dashboard must be uniform and not to have different colours. If there are any differences it is possible that the dashboard was changed after an accident and in this case it is also possible that the airbag is not functional anymore. If there are differences on the dashboard it is required the presence of a specialist. If you make this inspection you can also see if the car was flooded. Usually there are signs of water in the glovebox.

  • Air conditioning and climate

This must be functional on all gears and have a normal smell.

  • Headlamps

These must be lighten up in all the positions and the fixings must be intact because they are easily destroyed in case of an accident. When you check the headlamps it is better to see if they are aligned with the line of the bonnet .

  • Wheels

They must have all wheel studs and the  wheel trims must be intact. The wheel trims are a very important clue regarding the way the car was driven. A car driven in a careless way has signs of scratches on the wheel trims. The car must have the spare wheel and this has to be functional.

  • Tyres

Tyres must be carefully checked. If they have an ageing  more than 2 mm they have to be changed shortly and there is a need of a new set of tyres. In case they are used you can demand a smaller price.

  • Electrical options

They have to be checked one by one. According to the facilities of the car you must check: rear view mirror and the wing mirrors, heater of the seats, radio/cd, hatch, electrical windows, windscreen wipers, headlamps wipers, clima, windscreen demisting.


If all these are according to your wish it is time to go to the next step:

  • Lifting the bonnet

Even if an untrained person can check some elements if he has a lifted bonnet:

– timing belt must be continuous; if it is older than 4 years this must be replaced.

– the battery must not have signs of corrosion

– with the engine running you must observe if there are any leaks under the car

– struts must not be curved and not having signs of welding

– the hoses and belts have to be felt as soft and firm. They must not be hard and breakable

– the battery must not have signs of use

– check the oil and the pressure oil. Engine oil has to be black and sticky and not to present metal particles (particles oil means that there are problems at the pistons)

  • Test drive

– the car has to start from the first key

– if you are driving in a circle you have to listen if there is heard any noise (do not test a car when there is a sound source around or in a noisy place)

– slam the brakes on and see how the brake pedal behaves

– pass over the bumps and see if the suspension is firm or the car has a balance

– try to drive the car on a road outside the town and listen or feel if there are any vibrations

– in an area without bumps try to raise your hands and see if the car goes in a left or a right side

– test the handbrake; it has to be stable and quiet

– if you tick over the car must to be shake and not have fluctuations

– drive on a ramp and check if the shields are welded

  • Dashboard display lights

They have to be turned on in the moment you make  a contact with  them and to be turned off when you start the car. Keep in mind that it is possible that the lights turn off one by one, not in the same time.



If all these are checked and you are happy with the evaluation of the car it is time to buy it. In this moment all the legal methods must be done in order to purchase the car and become the new owner.


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