How to buy a used car properly?


There’s nothing very complicated about buying a used car, however there are some things you should know to avoid classic mistakes and disappointment. Here are Wedotips’s 10 tips for buying a used car.

1 – Defining your budget

It is imperative that the question of budget be addressed before purchasing a used vehicle in order to avoid any drift. A car consumes fuel (more or less depending on the model), requires maintenance that can be expensive, and must be covered by insurance. All these criteria represent a budget which will be quite substantial if you easily concede to the temptation of the “car of your dreams”.

Reason must prevail and it’s better to choose a vehicle that won’t ruin your budget, especially if you’re in a household and you already have children (or children to come), otherwise you’ll have to sell it quickly.

2 – Know your needs

Take the time to decide which model you are looking for. A used ford mustang diesel, a used Opel Corsa petrol and a used DS 5 Hybrid 4 have little thing in common. Do you need 5 seats or 7 seats ? Is it the family car or the 2nd car in the household ? Can you reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing an electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid vehicle ?

3 – Should I opt for a private or professional seller ?

The question is relevant because both solutions have advantages and disadvantages. The professional revises his cars before selling them and generally offers a guarantee. However, the desire to achieve certain objectives can sometimes lead him to propose a vehicle that does not necessarily correspond to your needs.

Most of the time, private individuals offer vehicles at a lower price, but there is no guarantee and scams are not excluded. The state of maintenance must be checked (service book or invoices) imperatively. In terms of price, it’s generally possible to barter with a personal individual, especially for vehicles that are difficult to resell.

4 – Check the key points of the used car

The general condition of the vehicle should be thoroughly inspected, not just at a cursory glance. Nothing should escape your notice. Check that every piece of equipment is in working order, that no malfunctions hinder driving and that nothing is missing. Pay attention both inside and outside! Make sure that the vehicle has never been involved in a serious accident.

5 – Testing the vehicle

No matter what type of seller or dealer you want to buy your used car from, you are entitled to try your favourite before you buy it. Take advantage of this opportunity to test drive the car and make sure it’s right for you.

Make sure that :

  • the vehicle runs without any abnormal noise from the engine or running gear;
  • the clutch shows no signs of wear and tear;
  • the gears shift properly;
  • exhaust emissions are normal;
  • there is no warning light on the dashboard.
  • there are no visible oil or water leaks.

6 – Ask questions, questions and more questions

used car
  • What is the mileage of the car? (to be compared with the odometer and the service book) ;
  • What was the use of the car?
  • Has it ever been in an accident or been repaired?
  • When was the last service performed?
  • Why do you want to sell this car?
  • Is the price negotiable?
  • Etc…

7 – What documents does the seller have to provide me with?

If you buy a second-hand vehicle, certain obligatory documents must be given to you to validate the sale and to constitute your file of request for a new car registration document:

  • The crossed-out vehicle registration document (signed and dated the day of the sale);
  • A copy of the transfer certificate (Cerfa 15776*01 version 2018);
  • A technical inspection report less than six months old: for vehicles more than four years old;
  • A certificate of non pledge, also called certificate of administrative status: downloadable free of charge.

8 – What are the points to check ?

Before buying a used car, it must be inspected externally and a test drive must be carried out.

Visually inspect the bodywork, check the condition of the paintwork (differences in tint), the assemblies(accident vehicle), the condition of the windows and optics. Don’t forget to check the condition of the tyres and make sure they are identical on each axle.

At the wheel
The general condition of the interior will give a first impression. Inspect the condition of the upholstery (stains, tears), the wear of the steering wheel and pedals (heavy wear often indicates high mileage). Test the operation of the comfort features (radio, air conditioning, power windows, etc.).


9 – On what type of road should I try the vehicle ?

It is imperative to try a vehicle on all types of roads to test its reactions during acceleration and braking, as well as its behaviour at high speed. Listen to the engine, test the steering, shift into all gears and ask as many questions as possible if there is a suspicious noise. If the seller refuses, simply don’t buy the vehicle.

10 – When should I insure my car ?

A car must be insured at the time you take possession of it. In the case of sales between private individuals, this is the moment when the car registration is crossed out, before you leave with it. For a purchase from a professional, the car must be insured at the time of delivery. All motorised land vehicles must be insured from the moment they are driven on the public highway. The fact of recovering a vehicle with the help of a tray to put it on private property does not oblige the buyer to insure his vehicle.

Before changing your car, it is important to make sure that the vehicle you want to buy corresponds to your needs. On the other hand, and especially in the case of a purchase from a private individual, a few checks are necessary. Checking the state of maintenance, administrative documents, but also a test drive must precede a possible purchase.


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