18 Pro tips when buying a second hand car | Expert steps on how to buy a car

This article will provide you with some expert advice when buying a second hand car. I have geared this article especially towards people that want to buy and sell cars for profit. If that’s not you, not to worry, it’s still extremely useful!

If you’re still learning how to buy a car you may be thinking it’s going to be a stressful process. Buying a second hand car is the most important aspect of flipping cars for profit. Mainly because it determines how much cash you’re going to make.second hand car - how to buy a car 2

However, just remember there is a lot of money to be made so hang in there!

If you’re interested in making some serious money then learning how to buy a car is your starting point. Especially buying a used car, rather than a fairly new one. This is of course because someone else has taken the hit on the depreciation!

This article doesn’t include technical checks you should do when buying a second hand car. However, I have put together a checklist for you on that topic as well. A checklist I wish I had when I started, so you’re welcome!


  1. Run a vehicle History Check on EVERY second hand car!

second hand car - how to buy a car 3It’s incredibly important to run a proper vehicle history check through a third party to get a proper report. I have read about a lot of people finding out their second hand car was previously in a wreck after they had completed the purchase. This of course, ruined the resell value. If the seller is being cagey about providing you with the VIN number then something isn’t right and move on!


  1. Arrange for a mechanic to inspect your second hand car

second hand car - how to buy a car 4

After this, I always recommend getting a certified mechanic to check the car. This isn’t that expensive and usually costs about (£/$)75-100. It is impossible to know how well the previous owner(s) took care of the car, even after a vehicle history check, that’s why it’s better to spend some money on one of these checks now rather than paying thousands later and losing money on the flip.


  1. Research, Research, Research!

second hand car - how to buy a car 5Find the right car for you. This goes back to the research phase we previously discussed and making sure you’ll be able to flip the car for profit quickly. Do not go window shopping at a dealership if you haven’t done your research. This will limit your knowledge to only what the dealer is open to telling you.


  1. Relax, Inspection first, driver’s seat second!

Do not hurry to get into the drivers’ seat. The action of putting yourself behind the wheel gets you thinking about being the owner and shifts the decision into an emotional one. Instead, run a proper check on all the other component of the car.



  1. Look around the car properly

    second hand car - how to buy a car 6

If the car is in a dealer’ forecourt, ask them to drive it out so you can see every angle properly. This is sometimes a strategic decision on their part. Don’t subject yourself to their rules. You need to be able to see the car from at least 1-2 metres from each side for a number of the following reasons.


  1. A second hand car usually has a history

Carefully check the colour of each panel of the car. Make sure each panel’s colour is consistent and doesn’t have any variations. This helps you see if the car has been worked on. If you do notice a variation in colour, then enquire on its source and use the information to your favour. This is important when learning how to buy a car. A lot of people notice discolorations after they’ve bought their second hand car.


  1. Check the rubber!

second hand car - how to buy a car 7Check each tyres thread with a coin for consistent thread. Ideally you are looking for around 3mm of thread. The legal requirements for tyre thread currently sits at 1.6mm however you don’t want to be paying out for new tyres. A decent level of rubber will put your buyers at ease when you flip the car.


  1. Don’t be afraid to get on your knees!

A good idea is to get on your knees, (or back) and check the bolts for scratches. A second hand car with scratched up bolts indicates that the car has been modified or altered. It’s also possible that car has suffered some damage. Again, you can use this information to your advantage when negotiating.


  1. Warped Body-Work is a B##CH

second hand car - how to buy a car 8

Look out for warped reflections in the bodywork. This is a technique used to spot tiny dents in the panels which can be hard to notice. Instead look at the reflections for inconstant reflections. I’ve personally bought a second hand car and only noticed tiny dents after the purchase. Very frustrating.


  1. Modification? No thanks!

second hand car - how to buy a car 9

Try to stay away from second hand cars with fancy exhausts or body kits. These are generally done by fanatics and although are sometimes pleasing on the eyes, they could potentially cause you problems later on.



  1. Dashboard Check!

Make sure you check that the lights on the dashboard, turn on, then off again with the ignition. The most important ones are the airbag light and ABS light. I’ve read about instances where the bulb is taken out or covered by something so they don’t show an underlying issue. That’s why it’s important to see it come on, as well as turn off.


  1. GPS Check!

second hand car - how to buy a car 10If the car comes with a built-in system, for example satnav, check it’s all in working order, punch in your home address and make sure it works.


  1. Hot Air / Cold Air

Turn on both the heater and the air conditioning system and confirm its all working. Some people forget to check one of these two. Be thorough when buying a second hand car!


  1. Got a Smoke?

second hand car - how to buy a car 11Look out for cigarette burns or stains, this could indicate that the car is actually a smelly one! This might sound strange but it’s easy to make a car smell nice for a short while. However, if the previous owner was a smoker or used the car for moving waste you could be left with a car that holds an awful odour.


  1. Mileage Add up?

Check the mileage matches up with the MOT reports. Make sure you check the service history of the car. Some second hand car owners manipulate the mileage. Be careful.


  1. Haggle till your blue!

second hand car - how to buy a car 12Be sure to haggle as much as possible! Always be prepared to walk away from a deal. I say this so often but you’re profit lies in the buying of the car. That being said be sure to check the article that covers buying more in depth! If you overpay then you’re just wasting your time. People find this part the most daunting however suck it up and educate yourself on techniques to make discussions work in your favour. I’m going to put something together for you to help you on this matter. Before you even start negotiating though, make sure you follow all the steps I just laid out for you.


  1. Thinking about a warranty?

Try and get yourself an extended warranty if you’re buying a second hand car from a dealer. This will protect you in case of any unanticipated faults. Just make sure you read the small print first! You can actually now get warranties with third party providers to protect yourself. They are relatively cheap in my opinion. More on that topic to come!



  1. Close the deal properly!

second hand car - how to buy a car 13I usually advise to try and not pay for cash wherever possible, only because if anything goes wrong then you might struggle getting your money back. Ideally you can pay with a credit card so you have a proper paper trail, but most private sellers won’t accept this. Do not buy a second hand car from someone who still owes money on it. Generally, the lender will hold onto the title of the car but regardless, stay away. Never accept delivery of a vehicle without the title or V5 transfer paperwork (UK) or the title of the car (US). I have included a receipt template for recording the transaction. This downloadable is relevant if your buying or selling so…… your welcome!



Well that’s it for now, I hope you have learnt something you didn’t know when buying a second hand car. This article is just a taster for you on what’s to come. If you found this article helpful for buying a used car then please let me know, I would appreciate it greatly. Also if you have any tips for us all that I forgot to mention, please let us know!! We’re all here to help each other!

Author: Bayda Natik

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