A Full Checklist Around What to look for when buying a used car

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We have prepared this complete comprehensive guide on Step-by-Step What to look for when buying a used car online sure to read to the end so you get all answers to your questions

Nowadays, many people prefer to shop for everything they need online. So, it is not awkward that you want to buy a used car online.

However, there are things you should know about buying used cars online; it is not similar to buying goods, services, or products from eCommerce sites; when it comes to buying a car online, quite a lot of things are to be noted.

Interestingly, this article is going to detail a lot of tips you should know. We all have tips on how to haggle prices when buying a used car.

Also, it is important that say that irrespective of how deep you make online researches about a used car, you should physically inspect the car before making the final payment.

Now, that you’ve known this vital tip, let’s go on with the other ones.

What to look for when buying a used car online

Research and read reviews

Of course, research is still very much a necessity when shopping online. Without carrying out a comprehensive research about a product, you’re likely to end up being cheated.

When it comes to used cars, your research should span across many factors, platforms, and dealership sites.

This will enable you to have firsthand knowledge about the vehicle like how does buy a used car works, as well as give you clues on how to go about buying the car.

Also, reading up online reviews about the car you’re about to buy is quite important – and while doing this, you should check people’s suggestions/reviews about the dealership that is offering the used car.

If you’re unable to get online reviews for the used car, then you should ask experts in forums and heed to what they have to say.

One of the reasons why research is the first thing to do is because it validates your assumptions. You can also discover the perfect car for your need through your research.

You know, people think they know the best car they need; however, it is not always true – you may want an SUV meanwhile the best car for your need is a Sedan.

All your assumptions and thoughts will be clarified when you make proper research and read people’s reviews about used cars.

This is the way to go, and it will affect every other tip shared on this article.

Compare different models and sellers/dealerships

Before settling with a particular car, it is advisable to explore all other possible options.

You can start by researching the various models designed by a particular car brand. Then move on to the car versions, as well as search “by year of production.”

Compare different models
Compare different models
photo credit: osv.ltd.uk

For example, you’re looking to buy a used Mercedes C300 to use as a personal ride; you can start by searching for Mercedes C300 2017 – when you have gotten enough information about the Mercedes C300 that was designed in 2017, then you can check to see if there are different versions of C300 2017.

Afterward, you should search for Mercedes C300 2018 and note the differences between the two. That’s how to start.

Furthermore, when you’re done looking up for C300, you should consider searching for another Mercedes car model; maybe, this time you can search for Mercedes GL 350 or any other model designed by Mercedes.

Check out the features of the model and how they differ from the ones on C300.

When you’re done with the model comparison, then you can move to compare the price differences.

Also, you may have to move on to another car brand, maybe Toyota or Chevrolet.

These alternative car brands are popular for making good cars that can be compared to Mercedes rides.

Thus, just as you searched for Mercedes C300, you can search for Toyota Corolla 2017, and then compare the features to that of Mercedes C300 – if the features aren’t matchable, check for Corolla 2018 before moving on to another Toyota model, maybe, Camry or its luxury brand – Lexus.

Apparently, this process can be daunting, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did it: research and compare as many cars and brands as possible.

When you’re done with this and have streamlined your top picks (2 or 3 different car models from the same brand or different brands), then you should start checking dealerships that offer those used cars.

Ensure to check as many dealership websites for the car models – when you see any of the cars on a dealership website, take note of the price, and continue to check for the other models that are among your top picks.

By the time you’re done noting the various price offers from different dealership sites, then you can be able to compare and decide on the particular car you’re going to buy.

At this point, you have to start working on a budget or plan towards picking a car financing deal.

Your research must have left you with a lot of tips about the car you want to buy; thus, it would be easy to haggle with the salesperson when you hit the lotto pick up your ride.

Get ready for a new responsibility

Whether you are buying a used car or a brand new car, certainly, you will have to consider the maintenance cost of that vehicle and include in your monthly budget.

When a car (used or new) is not properly maintained, the car will die off sooner than expected.

The maintenance of the used car will become your new responsibility, and you should be ready for that.

To this regard, you have check out the maintenance cost of the various models on your top picks (from your research).

It’s best to go for the model is costs less in maintenance, and also consider going for the model that you can easily find its mechanic around your area.

Some particular cars, you may find it very difficult to get a mechanic that would be able to fix them when they breakdown.

Thus, you should consider the flexibility and cost of maintaining the used car before settling to buy it off a seller.

Contact the seller or dealership online

If you found the car you want to buy on a dealership website, go ahead to reach out to the dealership.

Get in touch with them and ask some vital questions regarding the car you want to buy from them.

You can request for the car history report and other important documents that validate the authenticity of the car.

Some dealerships have a “Live chat” feature on their website so that you could talk to a customer representative immediately.

Alternatively, you can reach out to the dealership via email or their social pages.

There can be different ways to contact a car seller or a dealership – when you get the important information from the dealership; you can go ahead to validate it via online platforms such as “Auto Report and CarFax.”

Note: you shouldn’t pay for the vehicle history report; it should be given to you freely.

If the dealership requests for a fee before releasing the vehicle history report, that’s a red flag to note down.

Normally, what you’ll get is a CarFax report for the used car – this report is very much handy; however, you should entirely abide with what you see on the report.

Thus, a physical inspection of the used car and a 20 – 30 minutes test drive is still very necessary.

Ask if there’s a return policy, buyback policy, and warranty

This is very important when buying a used car online. Ask the dealership if there are policies that secure the process of buying the used car.

Typically, there’s a warranty policy that covers you as a buyer when you purchase the used car from a dealership.

However, you should inquire to know if there’s a buyback policy, which means you can resell the car to the dealership if anything happens and you do not need it anymore. 

Knowing about these policies is quite important, and you should carefully read through the policy pages to assimilate the terms and conditions.


If the dealership doesn’t offer any of these policies, please do not continue – lookout for another dealership.

A reliable car dealership should have all or at least one of these policies; it helps to increase the buyer’s trust and confidence.

Nevertheless, if you’re buying the used car from a private seller who posted his used car online, then, these policies may not be in place.

However, you should read through the “legal” pages of the online platform or website where the private seller uploaded the car.

On this note, you should be careful when buying used cars online – there are a lot of fake websites where you can access a lot of car listings.

Do well to read up reviews about the online platform or dealership sites where you’re hoping to get your new car from.

Ask if you could physical inspect the car

You should ask the car salesperson if you can physically inspect the car. This is very necessary because not all information shared online about a used car is actually true.

Sometimes, the used car may have minor damages that are not visible to the eye, and the seller may also not know about them.

But when you inspect the car, you can discover these minor damages and point them out to the seller.

Interestingly, you may get a very good discount due to some minor damages to the car.

During car inspection, you should check the tire threads, play the CD/DVD player, check the car AC, look at the upholstery, adjust the front chairs, and check every other thing you could imagine.

Most importantly, after the car inspection, you can ask for a test drive and negotiate with the seller for 20 – 30 minutes test drive.

Why you need up to 30 minutes test drive is to enable you to discover all the possible engine/mechanical faults that are not visible.

If you’re not sure you could inspect a used car properly, maybe you should go with someone who is experienced – probably, a car mechanic.

If your location is far from the car inspection centre, you can reach to someone (maybe a friend) living in that area to go and inspect the car on your behalf.

However, you are going to do it – it is important that you thoroughly inspect a used car before you make payment to the seller and get the car delivered.

The person representing you should also test drive the vehicle. In all, the car dealer/seller should be aware of your plans.

It is best to go for inspection before finalizing the deal. This is because once the deal is signed and your car is delivered, any subsequent fault you discover is left for you at your expense.

Finalize the deal

Before you get to this point, ensure that you have tested the car and all the important documents are valid.

There are different ways to pay for your new ride – most dealerships offer car financing deals or car loan deals; you can sign up for the deal and pay for your car.

Cash/direct payment is still a good option; if you’ve got the money, it is best to pay for your car and do not opt for any car loan deal from the seller.

Some dealers offer more than four (4) different ways to pay for a car on their lot—Opt-in for the most flexible one.

You may also have to pay a separate delivery fee, or it can be added to the final price of the car.

Arrangements should be made on when and how to deliver your car – the delivery man would come with the car papers, and you’d have to sign them to seal the deal.

When your car is delivered, check it out very well to ensure it is the actual car you bought.

In fact, look out for the VIN and crosscheck with the VIN on your Vehicle History Report.

If the VINs do not correspond, you got delivered the wrong car.

What more?

These are what to look out for when buying a used car online. Other handy tips about buying used cars are available on this website – check our homepage.

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