how to buy a used car

How to buy a used car – autoDNA advices

19 September 2022

Every day, thousands of people face the same dilemma – how to buy a used car, how to choose wisely and not lose money. Buying a used car – unlike purchasing a new one – requires much more caution. Here is what you should know if you look for a used car, and you don’t want to make a mistake.


How to buy a used car? Consider a few factors

Although it seems to be most interesting part, inspecting a car is only one of the last stages connected to buying a car on the secondary market. You need to start with finding answers to a few incredibly crucial questions, as apart from knowing HOW to buy a used car, it’s also important to know HOW to buy it.


Car safety systems

Contemporarily produced cars are equipped with numerous safety systems which support the driver in demanding situations. These can be various – from emergency braking in front of a sudden obstacle to a difficult start on a slippery surface. When planning to buy a vehicle, the safety systems are definitely a thing worth taking into account.


Age of the vehicle

Buying a used car is always a resultant of many compromises. Usually, the older a car is, the low is the price you’d have to pay for it. However, it’s often the case that greater age translates into greater exploitation and worse technical condition, which means that after purchasing such car you need to invest certain amount in it. These are the general rules which you should keep in mind – just like you should remember that in order to make the final decision, you should be primarily guided not with the rules, but with the actual technical condition of the particular car.


Budget you’re willing to spend on buying a car

No car owner – or nearly no car owner, because there might can always be an exception – sells a car in an ideal technical condition for a so-called bargain. It’s worth keeping in mind that certain faults eventually sooner or later come to light – and they do not necessarily need to be concealed by the previous owner of the car, but they simply result from the average exploitation, and they’re unable to be detected during e.g. a control at a diagnostic station.

When establishing a budget for purchasing a car on a secondary market, it’s worth having at least 15-20% of it extra for necessary repairs, but also for preparing the car for further driving (it could be a necessary replacement of the valve drive, buying a new set tires, insurance payment etc.).


Where to look for for a used car?

Nowadays, there are many places where you can buy a used car. There are many opinions about them, sometimes reliable, other times based on bias or single negative experiences. Regardless of where you’d like to buy a used car, you should always be extremely careful. You should thoroughly read the sale offer, verify the VIN number, check the data in the vehicle registration book and analyse the vehicle card.



Don’t forget to take test drive as well. Have somebody help you – the best would be an experienced auto mechanic, and it’s not possible, then have somebody who can take a look at the offer with a cold eye – such help could be priceless.



Buying from a private owner

A person who sells a car privately usually is able to tell you about the car the most. It’s an opportunity to get to know the vehicle history well. A car put on sale by a private seller can also – but doesn’t have to – be much better maintained than a car sold by a company (the so-called fleet car). Buying from a private seller is usually more profitable, however, it requires a lot of caution.

Some assume that it’s best to buy a used car from a family member or a close friend. And such solution has its advantages, however, it limits your choice – sometimes it might even lead to conflicts between close ones when it turns out that the praised vehicle is far cry from an expected ideal.



Buying from a used car lot

Used car lots give an opportunity to have a look at a few, several, or even sometimes several dozen or  few hundred vehicles and select the optimal model from among them. However, you should remember that a used car lot becomes an intermediary between the seller and the buyer – and it wants to, of course, earn from its services. Therefore, you need to expect higher prices compared to those offered directly by private sellers.

If the price is the same or lower, think if a seemingly perfect appearance of the car is not used to conceal its substantial defects. Experienced sellers know tricks, therefore a test drive and bringing the car to an independent car workshop before purchasing it are essential.


Buying from an abroad importer

Importing a car from abroad is another popular option, which in some cases turns out to be very profitable. As any bigger purchase, it requires a lot of caution – making sure that not only the technical condition of the considered item is satisfactory, but also it’s paying attention to its legal status.

Then, it’s worth making sure that the car has all its necessary documents, thanks to which – after paying relevant fees – it can be easily registered in the destination country. Taxes and excises – in various amount, depending on the country, and e.g. the engine capacity – tend to be included in the price of the car, however, sometimes the person purchasing a car from abroad has to bear costs and complete formalities on their own.


Buying at a car dealership – CPO

You can also buy a used car at a car dealership, directly from the dealer – just like when you buy a new car.  CPO, or certified pre-owned cars, is an excellent option for those who want to buy a few-year-old car with a low mileage and documented vehicle history, serviced at authorised service points in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation. Does this option have any drawbacks?

Kinda yes – it requires a substantially greater budget. A car sold in an authorised car dealership is more expensive than a car sold anywhere else. On the other hand, a better technical condition of a car and greater security of purchase are things which many people are willing to pay more for.


Pay attention to what you’re buying

Purchasing your car is coming closer? It’s time to get well prepared fr the car inspection in order to verify its technical condition as well as you can – although it’s always a good idea to bring an expert with you, you can check some things beforehand yourself, and save your – and your friend’s – time and unnecessary worrying.


Check the vehicle history of a used car

The more there is information put in a sale offer, the better it is – you can deduce more about the condition of the car, its history, and the authenticity of the mileage. However, the seller does not always aim at providing a lot fo reliable information to a potential buyer. What to do in such case? Choose a vehicle history report by autoDNA.



All you need is a VIN number – you can find it n many spots in the cars, as well as in the vehicle card, and it also must be included in the vehicle registration book. On the basis of data collected in the report, you can established whether the car has taken part in a serious accident, how reliable is its odometer reading, whether it is listed the lost vehicles register, how many owners it has had, what the deadline for a technical review was – it’s only a few items on a long list of data which can be used to e.g. lower the price or decide to resign from buying the car.





Do a test drive

Doing a test drive is an inherent part of a car inspection done before purchasing it. At that time, you need to check how the car behaves in various conditions and surfaces. Pay special attention to the work of the engine as well as the gearbox and the steering. Any disturbing noises and anything “loose” are also important.

It’s worth consulting any irregularity with an auto mechanic. It’s possible that some faults can be fixed quickly and at a low cost, however, some might herald a serious failure and a necessary costly repair. Neither the latter nor the former doesn’t have to constitute of a straightforward reason to resign from the purchase. However, you need to be aware of deficiencies of the technical condition – and consider them when making your final decision.


Car inspection and technical review

Car inspection does not only concern the look of the bodywork – although you should pay attention to that also, and here we don’t mean the “nice or not nice” aspect of it, but any traces of repairs, which could indicate a salvage past of the vehicle. Small damage doesn’t have to necessarily have a negative impact on the condition of the car. However, a repair done unprofessionally and against the principles – does. It’s good to check whether the spacing between the individual elements on one side of the car are identical on the other side; also measure the thickness of the paint.

During the car inspection you should check the functioning of individual elements of the cabin equipment, all the information shown on the dashboard which could indicate malfunctioning of the engine or its ancillaries. When it comes to the engine compartment, check if there is any oil leakage (and – of course – the oil level). Low level of fluids might indicate the previous owner’s insufficient maintenance – and suggest you to look for a better-maintained car.

Before making your decision, you should also verify the documents, i.a. the third-party insurance policy, as well as the compliance of documents with the factual state – check if the VIN number on the car is the same as the one included in the documents.


Buying a used car – payment methods

Singing a contract – if a car is sold via a sale and purchase agreement – or issuing an invoice is the moment in which the payment method needs to be decided on. There are a few options.


Cash or transfer payment

It’s the most basic method, within the framework of which the entire amount is transferred to the seller when buying the car. Although the cash payment is possible and often practiced, especially when the price is low, the bank transfer seems to be a more convenient and safer method – the so-called quick transfer eliminates the necessity of long wait for booking the transaction by the bank.


Bank loan

When buying a car for your own, private use, you can try financing it – by taking a bank loan. Then, the vehicle becomes your property, and you’re obliged to pay off the installments for an established period of time. It’s a solution for those who can’t or don’t want to pay the entire amount at once, in exchange agreeing to pay a slightly higher final amount (there are extra loan costs).



Leasing is a very popular and profitable option in the case of purchasing “company” vehicles, which are to be used for a business. Throughout the leasing period the vehicle remains the property of the bank or the leasing company, after that the car can be purchased for an agreed before amount.

Leasing does not require owning a big initial capital, however, it involves certain fees. Still, in the final settlement of the transaction – after taking into account the individual leasing installments in the costs of running a business – it tends to be the most profitable solution.


Now you know how to buy a used car. Is it worth it?

To buy a car in a good condition, from its first owner, with a low mileage and subjected to a detailed technical review and for an attractive price – sounds like a dream. Unfortunately, such situations happen in real life hardly ever. Buying a used car requires the art of compromise – but sch choice might also be profitable:

  • for practical reasons (e.g. the lack of waiting for a copy ordered in a car dealership),
  • for economic reasons (new cars are burdened with quick and substantial value loss)
  • for ecological reasons (it means reusing still operative vehicles instead of increasing the demand for new ones).

So, is it worth buying a used car? Yes – although not every car and not in every case. It’s always a good idea to follow your common sense and not rush, but instead check the car meticulously – e.g. by means of an autoDNA vehicle history report. Sometimes, it’s better to wait, other times – to pay a bit more – all in order to avoid future problems.


How to buy a used car – autoDNA advices
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How to buy a used car – autoDNA advices
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