Top Mistakes You Should Avoid When Buying A Used Car

Buying a used vehicle can be a smart financial investment, saving you tons of money over the lifetime of your vehicle. However, if you are not careful, it can be a risky fail in which you spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle that constantly breaks down and brings frustrations to your life. Take control of the car buying process and avoid the top mistakes when buying a used vehicle.

Common Used Car Buying Mistakes You Should Avoid

Unfortunately, there are many costly mistakes that consumers make when purchasing a used vehicle. Get the best bang for your buck by avoiding these common mistakes:

Too Tired to Compare Different Dealerships

The dealership you select can have a direct impact on how good your financial investment in a used car is. You may win up at a dealership that prides itself on customer service and its ability to offer buyers a fair deal – or one that will swindle you for the maximum amount of money possible.

Fortunately, you can quickly find out about the reputation of a business by checking their online reviews. If other customers have had issues with a dealership, you can expect to find these recounting stories online, but you have to be willing to do the work and research beforehand. If you’re around the UK, you can look for used cars for a start.

Skipping the Test Drive

Nothing replaces the test drive. You can find out whether a car fits you well, may have mechanical issues, or simply doesn’t feel right. You can also check if things like locks, brakes, the air conditioning system, windows, and other features of the vehicle work properly. Don’t skip the important step of test driving the car.

Not Having the Car Checked by a Mechanic

Unless you are a car expert yourself, it is vital that you have the vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic. If a dealership refuses to allow you to have a mechanic look at the vehicle, skip the car and the dealership altogether. A mechanic can inspect:

• Mechanical components
• Whether there is any smoke or pet-related damage
• The brakes
• The engine and transmission
• Tires
• Whether the vehicle has been altered in any way

Taking this step can help you avoid purchasing a vehicle that will shortly need expensive repairs or paying too much for a car based on its condition.

You can also ask the dealer for any mechanical or maintenance records associated with the vehicle.

Buying Based on Outward Appearances Alone

While the looks of a vehicle may play a part in your car buying decision, it should not be the only factor. You may purchase a good-looking car that is in poor mechanical shape that is soon undrivable. Establish what your real needs are for a car so that you avoid making an impulse decision based solely on aesthetics.

Not Running a Vehicle History Report

Today, it is easier than ever to find out about vehicle defects and safety recalls. You can ask the dealer to provide you with a vehicle history report. If the dealer does not offer this service, you can run your own report if you have the VIN. A vehicle history report can show whether the vehicle:

• Has had any prior accidents
• Has been listed in a police report
• Has had multiple owners
• Has a lien on it
• Has a history of safety issues or recalls

Negotiating in Person

Used car salespeople sometimes have a reputation of being the most aggressive and manipulative people out there. Once you are on the lot, the salesperson has a much higher likelihood of being able to pressure you into making a purchase. However, you can take away this power by doing most of the negotiation over the phone.

Not Negotiating at All

Because it is uncomfortable, some people may avoid negotiating at all, which can cause them to pay much more than a car is worth.

Being Manipulated on the Car Lot

A car salesperson may use a variety of methods to try to manipulate you, such as offering you one thing and then saying that the manager won’t sign off on it, letting you take a vehicle and then try to change the terms after you leave the lot, or offering you “free” gifts if you pay a higher price.

Making a Poor Financial Decision

Buying a used car is primarily a financial decision. However, some people may make a poor decision by:

• Only considering monthly payments and not the total cost of the vehicle
• Not lining up financing before making a purchase, making them subject to the dealership’s financing options
• Handing the seller your credit card which is then held hostage
• Accepting a low trade-in value for your vehicle
• Accepting a rebate that you never cash in
• Paying for extras you don’t need
• Paying administration fees

Tips on the Smart Way to Buy a Used Car

Gain the upper hand by following these tips for buying a used car:

Set Your Budget Ahead of Time

Avoid paying too much for a car by setting a budget well before you look at any vehicles. If you are paying cash, you know your hard limit. However, if you are taking out a car loan, it can be a little more complicated. A good rule of thumb is not to devote more than 10% of your monthly income to a car payment and to keep your total transportation costs less than 20%.

Select an Appropriate Car

Avoid buyer’s remorse by purchasing a car that meets your needs, including how well it handles, what you will primarily use it for, and its mileage.

Check the Vehicle History Report

Find out about any known vehicle defects and safety recalls tied to the vehicles you are considering by checking the vehicle history report. This can help you find out if the vehicle has a clean title, a history of any serious accidents, the amount of mileage, and whether it received recommended maintenance.

Test Drive the Car

Test drive the car to see how it handles. Check for the following:

• Whether the car makes any noises
• Whether any of the interior features do not work properly
• Whether brakes respond effectively
• Whether you feel comfortable in the car
• Whether the car has enough power when you are turning or accelerating

Inspect the Car

If possible, have a professional mechanic inspect the car. This will run you about $100, but is a good investment in helping you make an informed buying decision.

Negotiate the Best Price

Research the going price for the vehicle in your area by using any of the many resources out there to compare prices. You will likely need the following information to get the most accurate estimate of the value of the vehicle:

• Year, make and model
• Mileage
• Options
• Condition status

Be prepared to negotiate a fair price. Start your bid low but reasonable. Don’t let a salesperson go to the sales office. Write down each offer and counteroffer to keep the information straight in your head. Be prepared to walk away if you are not satisfied.


Buying a used vehicle can be a scary process, but it can also be an exciting one. Use the tips listed above to make the most of this exciting opportunity.