How to Buy a Second-Hand Car

Checklist: 10 things to know before buying a used car

Buying your first car is exciting but also a bit daunting with so many options to choose from. Here are ten top tips for buying a used car that you’ll love for years to come. How

1. What car can I afford?

Make sure you understand all the costs involved in owning a car. Experts recommend the 20-4-10 rule: putting a deposit down of at least 20%, financing the car for four years max (for the best possible interest rate), and only spending a maximum of 10% of your gross income on repayments including expenses like fuel, insurance, traffic fines, new tyres, repairs, etc.

2. Always shop around

Give yourself time to visit dealerships, test drive different cars and chat to friends. Don’t fall head over heels for the first car you lay eyes on.

3. Know what makes a good buy

Your car should fit your lifestyle so look out for the features you’ll need, e.g. aircon and GPS if you travel a lot for work or a spacious boot if you have kids. You’ll also want a car with the lowest mileage possible and good fuel consumption.

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4. Decide between buying directly or at a dealership

One of the advantages of buying a used car from a dealer is that they’ll take care of all the admin like registration and financing. Buying a used car from someone directly will likely get you a better price, but it’s riskier as you’ll have little to no recourse if the car has unknown issues.

5. Study used car prices

Browse sites like Autotrader to get a feel for prices, or try a used vehicle value calculator website like Value Your Car or CarZar.

6. Think about maintenance

Your car will need an annual service and repairs from time to time, so it’s good to know what all this will cost you. The annual AA Kinsey Report lists the cheapest cars to maintain in South Africa and will give you an idea of how much money to keep aside for unexpected costs like new tyres.

7. Do a proper car inspection

Check the tyres and inspect the body closely. For example, dodgy paintwork could mean that the car has been in an accident. Let it idle and listen for any strange sounds. For a small fee you can have also have it inspected by the AA – it’s called a Multi-Point Check.

8. Understand warranties, service plans and insurance

It’s important to understand what’s covered under what plan, policy or warranty. A warranty is there to cover mechanical breakdowns, insurance pays for accidents, and a service plan covers the replacement of parts like spark plugs and filters (fuel, oil, air) during your annual service.

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9. Sort out financing

Decide if you can pay for the car in cash, need to apply for vehicle finance, or take out a personal loan. A car loan will typically give you a lower interest rate but you will need to put down a deposit, whereas taking out a personal loan to buy a car, will give you flexibility to spend money on other things too – such as upgrading the sound system.

10. Drive a hard bargain

Show the dealer or seller that you’ve done your research and don’t be afraid to walk away if the negotiation doesn’t work out. If you know your price is right, stick to your guns. It will be worth it!

But wait: Before you drive off in your very own car, make sure you save even more money by getting car insurance. Click here to find out how.