Buying a second-hand car

A few things to look out for when buying a used car.

Public Personal used car car purchase

by TheDrill_Team

Paperwork

Where are you buying the car from? What's this?
― Dealer

They should take care of all the paperwork: name change, providing car documentation, etc.

Where are you buying the car from? What's this?
― Individual

Do a stolen car check.

Make sure all the appropriate documentation is provided:

  • history of technical revisions
  • documentation on previous ownership 

Car verification

Exterior:

  • check for scratches, bumps, or other signs of important accidents
  • check the paint for marks of rust
  • check for marks of painting (could indicate the car needed painting after an accident)
  • check the tires for marks of wear & tear relative to vehicle age
  • check formissing parts (e.g. antenna)
  • check that doors close correctly
  • check the headlights

Interior:

  • check seats for marks of wear & tear relative to vehicle age
  • check safety belts to work properly
  • check for spare tire and repair tools
  • check the windows

Under the hood:

  • check for possible oil leaks
  • the motor shouldn't look too clean nor too dirty

Test drive

Start the car and pay attention to any strange noises.

Steer to both sides to make sure the direction is fine.

Observe behavior when you accelerate or slow down the car.

Make sure that the gears switch smoothly.

Check that all systems function properly (e.g. windshield wipers; start/stop; A/C; radio, bluetootth, USB, etc).

General assessment

Age & Mileage: as an idea, a 5-year old car should have around 75,000 miles (or 120,000 km).

Emissions: make sure meets regulations for urban access where you live or will use the car. Check if there are additional taxes you may need to pay depending on the car classification.

Do you get any insurance for the car? What does it cover? Will they make a revision / clean-up before handing you the car?

Does the car come with 2 sets of keys? (in the case of recovered leased cars)

Will the owner/dealership agree for you to have the car tested by an independent mechanic?