Buying Used Cars: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Value for Your Money

Need your own vehicle, but short on funds for a brand-new ride? You might want to consider purchasing certified pre-owned cars instead.

While they may be cheaper, used cars can offer almost the same level of usability as new vehicles, especially if they are maintained properly. If you get lucky, you can even get an automobile with minimal mileage and, ultimately, get the best value for just a fraction of the cost.

Of course, getting the most out of your money isn’t just about pure luck. It also entails thorough research and effort on your part as the buyer. To help you out, here is a list of steps you need to take that you can use as a guide to make the most out of your used car purchase.

Buying Used Cars

Step #1: Set Your Requirements

Before you can even think about a car model, you need to decide on a specific set of requirements first. Start off with the reason why you’re making the purchase in the first place.

For example, if you are going to travel often with small children aboard, you would need a vehicle with secure, child-proof doors. Need to transport bulky items regularly? Go for a vehicle with sufficient and accessible storage space.

You should also consider other factors like the passenger capacity, cost- and energy-efficiency, engine power, speed, and your allotted budget for the purchase.

Step #2: Do Some Digging

Research is an important task you need to do before making a car purchase, especially if you’re planning to buy used cars. The more you know about the car model you are planning to get, the better you can gauge whether the price tags on the vehicles you are considering are fair and acceptable.

Step #3: Shop Around

Grabbing the cheapest deal you can find without shopping around first is a huge mistake when buying used cars. If you don’t want to regret your decision later, make sure to look at all your options first before signing on the dotted lines.

From newspaper and online ads to your vast network of friends and colleagues, you can use as many channels as you can when accomplishing this step. You can also seek help from professional dealers to find the car that fits your requirements.

Step #4: Set a Price

Once you have a list of pre-owned vehicles you wish to buy, it is time for you to set a price for each of them. Although the sellers will have their own valuation of the automobiles, you also need to have an idea of how much they should be priced according to:

  • The make, model, and year of its release
  • Its available features and other options
  • Mileage
  • Condition level and service record
  • Warranty, if available

Step #5: Test Drive

To make sure you’re making the right decision, you should always test drive the automobile you wish to purchase before closing the deal. This will allow you to give the car an initial inspection. Some of the things you can check on your own are:

  • The visibility and potential blind spots
  • Cornering, acceleration, and overall feel while steering
  • The responsiveness of the brakes
  • Ergonomics of the controls and gauges
  • Any unusual noise or vibration that indicates worn down tires or suspension

Step #6: Hire an Inspector

If the car you test drove lived up to your expectations, it is time for you to hire a skilled and experienced inspector. Pre-purchase car inspection is an important step you should never forgo as it would help you know the overall condition of the pre-owned car you’re about to buy.

It is also useful in the negotiations later on as you can use possible repairs and maintenance costs as a bargaining chip to bring the price of the vehicle lower.

Step #7: Negotiate the Price

When negotiating, it is wise to start low but keep it within ballpark. This will help you avoid giving the seller the impression that you’re not a serious buyer, while starting the bid at a price you can still raise as the negotiations continue. Make sure to ask for a breakdown of fees to prevent dealers from taking back the profit they lost during negotiations by adding bogus charges on top of the car price.

Step #8: Close the Deal and Pay Up

Once you’ve reached an agreeable deal, you can now close the deal and pay up. Private sellers may require you to pay in full upfront while dealers can offer installment with a set interest rate. You can also try to ask if the car still has a warranty and how you can get one if it’s already expired.

Final Thought

There’s one rule in buying used cars that never changes: Always trust your gut. If it tells you that you won’t get the most out of what you’re paying, never be afraid to walk away from a dealer. Always keep in mind that hindsight is 20-20, so make sure you don’t regret the decisions you make today by studying about how to buy used cars the right way.


Mahesh Rohra is the Director of Arabian Automobiles LLC – AW Rostamani Automotive Group, a trailblazer in the automotive fraternity with a legacy of over 50 years. AUTOTRUST by AW Rostamani is the largest automotive multi-brand one-stop shop in the UAE where you can buy and sell quality pre-owned cars.

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