Even experienced motorists are not sure: What’s up when buying a car? What do I have to consider and where do I have to make concessions?
Follow a few simple tips and make a good first impression of the vehicle – even without specialist knowledge.
Tip: Use our free downloadable material at the end of this article and look for the Car Purchase Advice checklist to keep track of the most important items when you’re looking at a car!
Car Buying Advice: Used Car Basics
Buy “from private” or buy from the dealer? The advantage of buying a car from a dealer is, on the one hand, that many dealers thoroughly check their vehicles before the cars are offered. For a reputable dealer, you can be sure that at least all major deficiencies are resolved or specified before the purchase as a defect. On the other hand, dealers are required by law to take over the repair of defects, which were demonstrably known at the time of sale, two years after the vehicle has been handed over.
The advantage of private sellers, however, is that the vehicles are usually offered at a significantly lower retail price, because unlike the dealer, the private seller does not have to cover the sales with any additional costs. The disadvantage of a private seller: Even if the seller acts to the best of his knowledge and belief, it may be that some defects go unnoticed.
Tip: Dealers’ financing offers are often the worse choice. Cash payers save up to 20 percent!
The older, the cheaper – and the more often in the workshop Especially with cheap vehicles, which are usually driven many miles, it is difficult to say how often the car in the future must go to the workshop. Therefore, it is important to determine the general condition of the car, because it gives an idea of the many small details that cause enormous costs in the worst case.
A note gives for example the checkbook:
Is there a checkbook? If no checkbook is available (a kind of service plan or “maintenance booklet”, a proof of whether the vehicle was regularly maintained in a specialist workshop), this does not necessarily have to be a bad sign. Especially with small cars often no checkbook is performed. However, if one is available and works trustworthy (eg by regular visits to the workshop), this is a plus!
TÜV and HU note Especially with cheap vehicles, it is annoying if you have to directly after the purchase to the TÜV, because this costs money. If you have paid for the car only a few hundred euros, additional TÜV and workshop fees are quite significant.
Purchase advice: inspecting the car from the outside
Note gaps Due to the gap dimensions, even a layman can quite easily determine whether the car had an accident. The gap dimensions are the distance between two components, eg between the driver’s door and the body or the bonnet and the fender.
If this gap is significantly narrower at one point than elsewhere, there was possibly a rear-end collision – clearly a reason for a price reduction!
The same applies to color differences in individual car parts: If, for example, the driver’s door has a different color shade than the rest of the car, the door was probably painted over or even replaced after a parking damage. This is also a reason to reduce the price!
Tire Note Down-worn tires are basically no problem but incur costs. A car for eg cheap 1,000 euros will be significantly more expensive under the line, if in addition to the purchase price again 400 euros for new tires are due.
According to the legislature, the tires may be lowered to a profile depth of 1.6 mm, but anything below 2.5 mm is considered dangerous.
Also pay attention to whether summer, winter or year tires are raised. When winter is around the corner, cars have to be retrofitted with summer tires! If the “wrong” tires are raised, this is hardly a reason for a price reduction.
Headlamps, brake lights and turn signals When driving around the car, it should be checked whether all lights work. A defective bulb is changed fast, but a defective headlight is not. If the worst comes to the worst, get a new light bulb at the nearest gas station to be really sure it’s not on the spotlight.
Spoilers and other decos Especially young car buyers often find it great when the car has various optical embellishments. Here you should, however, urgently show, whether spoilers and other attachments are also registered in the vehicle registration!
Caution: spoilers and other “sporty” components can be an indication of a particularly rapid driving style of the previous owner, which is often not good for the car. Special attention should be paid to such vehicles.
Tip: When it comes to car financing, it does not always have to be a car loan . If you have a good credit rating, you may be better off with a classic installment loan . You do not have enough seed money? A balloon financing comes without a deposit.
Purchase advice: Car inspection from inside
Does the interior of the vehicle correspond to the stated mileage on the odometer and the vehicle age? Unfortunately, it happens now and then that the mileage was manipulated and not the actual mileage of the vehicle is on the clock. This is difficult or even impossible to recognize even for experts.
An indication of a manipulation can be worn seats or a clearly worn steering wheel. Ask yourself: For example, do the heavily seated seats suit the comparatively low mileage of 80,000 kilometers on the clock?
When in doubt: hands off the vehicle!
Car buying advice: engine, transmission and brakes
Are there any unusual sounds? Even if you are unfamiliar: Unusual sounds can sometimes be recognized as untrained drivers. So be sure to leave the radio off during the test drive to hear any noise!
Watch out for:
- unusual sounds from the engine compartment,
- unusual noises when switching.
Glimpse into the engine compartment: Everything shines like new? Be suspicious, because then maybe here with a sg engine spray helped – what sellers like to do, if the attention should be distracted by a problem.
How well does the car brake? Do a brake test on an open area such as an empty supermarket parking lot. Ask the seller for permission before!
Does the car keep the track? Drive straight on a clear surface and see if the car “pulls” to the left or to the right, so without leaving the track. If he does this, a costly wheel alignment may be needed.
Attention: Even poorly inflated tires can be the reason for a slight drift to the left or right! With a short stop at the gas station you can easily exclude this possibility.
What about the liquid levels? Although brake fluid, oil and wash water are quickly and cheaply replenished, they can also be a sign of carefree care.
What do the rubber hoses and seals look like? Even as a layman can be seen on closer inspection, whether rubber parts are porous.