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Guest Post

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Used Car

The following is a guest blog post by David at CarUnderstanding:


Buying a Used Car

You’re thinking of buying a car. You’d want to have the luxury of traveling to places without relying on others. You’d want to bring your family or friends on a road trip or on vacation.

    The problem is, a new car does not fit into your budget.

    The good news is, you can purchase a used car. However, purchasing a used car may not be as easy as it seems. You’d have to do some careful planning and research to make sure you get the best value for your car. Plus, you don’t want to end up with a car that runs on too many expenses, right?

    By the end of this article, you will have a better idea of what it takes to buy a used car. We’ll discuss the mistakes to avoid when buying a used car. Just make sure to avoid these, and you’ll be good to go.


Mistake # 1: Not Knowing What You Want

    Create a shopping list. List down what models you prefer. It would also be a good idea to write down your requirements for a car. Make sure to factor your needs. Do you have kids? How many are you in the family? What are your usual routes? What safety accessories are you looking for? These questions are crucial in helping you come up with a list. You don’t want to end up buying a car that you don’t need.


Mistake # 2: Not Doing Enough Research

Buying Used Car Research

    Yes, research. Think of it as your homework. You need to make sure you know what you’re getting. After creating your list, check out the price list. gives you an idea of car pricing whether used or brand new. allows you to compare car models. Compare the prices as well as the features.


    On an added note, search within 5 miles of your area and look for sellers. Don’t buy from sellers that are too far from where you live as there may be additional taxes. Also, it should be easy for you to go to the place so you can communicate with the seller and inspect the car.


    Now is also a good time to research on financing deals. Scour the market and contact banks or credit unions to pick the best financing option that’s easy on the budget. You may as well research on car insurance, too.


Mistake # 3: Rushing to Buy the Car

    Many people make the mistake of making the deal once they see a car that they like. Don’t fall in love with the car just because you love the shiny new paint or the awesome sound system. Make a thorough inspection first. Don’t be blinded by the external features. It doesn’t mean that if the car looks new on the outside means the interior and engine look the same. Ask the dealer questions. Take your time.


Mistake # 4: Skipping the Test Drive and Inspection

    Once you have found a car that you like, communicate with the seller for a visit. You may bring a car expert with you to help you check out the engine. Ask permission to take it out for a test drive. Take note of factors such as the sound of the engine, the air conditioner, the dashboard lights, and how comfortable you are driving it.


    How long does a car inspection take? No more than a few minutes. Perform a thorough car inspection and check under the hood. Watch out for signs of rust or corrosion on the engine and other metal parts. A well-maintained car does not only look clean on the outside but on the inside, too.


    Check the mileage against the age of the car. Don’t be afraid to purchase high mileage cars. This means that the car has been tried and tested. However, you should be wary of other signs if the car has high mileage. Well-kept cars still run smoothly even though they have high mileage.


Mistake # 5: Establish a Good Relationship with the Seller

    Establishing a good relationship with the seller allows you to establish trust. It will be easier to communicate with the seller and ask questions. How old is the car? Why are you selling it? How often do you take it out for servicing? These are some of the questions that will elicit an honest answer if you’re in good terms with the seller.

    It will also be easier to communicate with the seller after sales.  In case there will be problems, you could also give the seller a call.


Mistake # 6: Going Over Your Budget

Budget what to spend on a used car

    Don’t forget to set  budget. You still have other expenses to consider AFTER you purchase the car. Don’t think in terms of monthly payment. Consider the total price of the car along with insurance, maintenance, fuel, car cleaning, fees, and taxes. Remember, you are buying a used car because you don’t have the budget for a brand new one. If the expenses would be equal to a brand new car, then go get one instead.


Mistake # 7: Forgetting the Paper Trail

    Before you drive off with your new purchase make sure you have all the documents with you. A certificate of transfer or deed of sale proves that you are the new car owner. Ask for the insurance papers, maintenance receipts, warranty for parts, and other receipts related to the car. These documents would give you an idea of how much maintenance the car needs. This paper trail will save you from incurring additional costs when it comes to repairs or maintenance.


Mistake # 8: Not Checking the Vehicle’s History

    Once you spot a car that you like, obtain the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or license plate number and run a check. The VIN shows you service history, ownership, and if the car has been involved in traffic violations or mishaps. Don’t go for a car that has been passed down from owner to owner. You don’t want a vehicle that has been involved in too many bad situations, do you?



    Owning a car is both a privilege and a luxury. If owning a car makes life easier for you, then go for it. There are a lot of used cars that are still of good quality. You just have to be diligent in doing your homework and planning so it doesn’t become a headache.


    Please share with us your thoughts and feedback regarding this topic. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends!



  1. After buying several used cars in the past year, I agree with your list! It took awhile, but we went into buying knowing exactly what car(s) (narrowed to about 2-3 models in a 5 year window with a specific price range) we wanted and were able to simplify our searches accordingly. It then came down to a waiting game as we hunted for a good deal with a reasonable seller. We lucked out and found what we were looking for relatively quickly 🙂
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Adventure Challenge #3: Go Watch the SunsetMy Profile

    1. It seems like once you actually write down all of your criteria, it makes it much easier to find what you are looking for. And it seems like you find it faster as well since it is easier to narrow things down when looking. I agree, just need to look for reputable seller and good price. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    1. I agree. If someone doesn’t want you to see the Car Fax then it sounds very shady. I know a lot of people who have had bad luck with used cars. It drives fine for the first little bit then you keep finding more problems. Most of these could be avoided with the right paperwork of maintenance, etc.

  2. Hi DD,

    That’s a good list of mistakes. However, there is one big mistake that most people make and that is financing a car for more than 3 years. Cars depreciate at a very fast rate and the longer the loan term, the higher the chance that borrower would be upside down on the loan. In other words, a borrower is likely to own more money on the car than what it is actually worth.

    I’ve never financed a car in my life and have always paid for it in cash. If I can’t pay for it by cash then I can’t afford it. So in a way, I consider financing a depreciating asset like car, a major mistake that most people make.

    Mr. ATM

    1. I agree with you 100%! That is huge. Also some people to get a lower payment will draw it out for a few more years. In interest and what else, that will add up and cost you way more than trying to pay it down earlier or within the 3 years you mentioned. That is a for sure way to end up paying a higher amount than you agreed upon in the beginning and probably end up paying more than it is worth over the course of the car’s life. As always, I appreciate your comments!

    1. That is a good point. The key in any negotiation is maintaining the power of the conversation or leverage. Then making the other party think they won the negotiation even though you won more. You guys just went through the car buying process so I know you had to deal with a few of these points. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I’m a pro used car. There is a reason why lenders make you buy a premium when buying a new car on top of the regular insurance. Because as soon as the car is out of that lot, it depreciates. that car was bought for $30k, dove a couple miles before colliding with some other cars, the insurance company only reimburse $25k. That’s why lenders don’t want to take a loss.

    As far as buying used cars, all of your advices are great! Test drive is a must! I made a mistakes with my first car, having my brother tested driving it instead of myself. I was sitting in the passenger seat instead. The Honda Civic was sitting way low, and I’d feel every bump. I’m a more of a grandma and grandpa type, I’d like to see everything, and sitting up straight. 🙂 but that was a great car,
    Asked me 9 years. 🙂 Honda Civic 1995, bought it in 2003, gave it away in 2012. $2000 (a big fortune back then).
    Vivianne recently posted…Recent Buy – TEVA $TEVAMy Profile

    1. Yeah that is one of the reasons I don’t like brand new cars. The depreciation is ridiculous. It is funny you say that. When calculating net worth, a few of my friends add their cars in the asset section. So they would say $30k positive asset. Then I tell them go try to sell it right now for $30k, it isn’t possible, therefor it isn’t worth nearly as much as you are claiming even though that is what you paid.

      A used car that is well taken care of can be a blessing. I had a truck that I drove to 225k miles. Regular maintenance and oil chances every 3k miles like clockwork ever since it was brand new from the original owner. That thing was still driving like a champ when I sold it. Was only a year or two away from being able to put classic plates on it haha.

    1. Research is key if it is new or used. There can be a lot of value in a used car if the research is done correctly and you find the right car. Hope the tips were beneficial.

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