How to Buy Secondhand Cars

by Brooke Pierce

Secondhand cars have a lower depreciation rate compared to new cars. You can acquire your ideal car easily, quickly and cheaply. But take a few well-established steps when buying secondhand cars to successfully close the deal.

Check Car Reviews and Prices

Do research prior to buying the car. Check offers on secondhand cars available in your neighborhood. Decide on the make and model of the car you want to buy. Check car reviews from the Internet to know which model best suits your financial plan and needs. The Automobile Association of the United Kingdom offers these helpful tips on buying a secondhand car.


Do not buy a car on impulse; buy it to meet your needs.

Contact the Seller

Call the seller before you meet to see the car. Ask questions about the car and arrange for the meeting if it is a private deal. Set up the meeting during the day when there is natural lighting, which will enable you to determine the car's condition more accurately.

Inspect and Test Drive the Car

You should start the car when the engine is cold. Ask for the car’s service records to know its maintenance history. Drive the car on different roads and take note of the brakes and engine noise. Also, drive on the route you mostly use on a daily basis. Have your mechanic inspect the vehicle if you don’t know much about cars. Check the engine, suspension, transmission, brakes, tires, steering and bodywork. The mechanic can also help you inspect the car for corrosion and rust.


  • Avoid cars in need of major repairs, such as an engine overhaul.
  • Do not buy a car without test driving it.


Do research on the pricing of secondhand cars to know the car’s worth and thus identify a suitable price. Decide how high you can go and make your initial price offer low. When you reach your limit -- and there is no deal -- walk away.

Check the Paperwork

This will provide you with the details about the car ownership and the history of the car. Ensure the documents are genuine. If the car’s history report is filled with issues, do not proceed with the deal. If you are not convinced by the history report, ask for the car’s financial records -- such as the receipt for its most recent sale or receipts for maintenance work -- to make sure it is not stolen. Ensure that you have all the important documents before closing the deal. Check that the vehicle identification number recorded on the log book is the same as the one displayed on the car.

Items you will need

About the Author

Based in Amsterdam, Brooke Pierce has been writing automotive-related articles since 2012. She holds a Bachelor of Science in automotive engineering technology from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI.