The selection of used cars is huge. In order not to lose the overview, you have to be smart before buying a used one.
Germany’s drivers buy an average of more than three million new cars a year, but also more than seven million used ones. With a new car, you usually know what you’re getting into, but how do you recognize a good pre-owned vehicle? What do you have to watch out for? Here are some tips.
Where can you get information?
It is probably a matter of taste whether you search the used car exchanges on the Internet or the classic newspaper advertisements. Most used car buyers will certainly use both channels for their search. The online portals offer a huge range; Vehicles can be found quickly using search and filter functions such as price, model request or mileage. A look in the newspaper can also be worthwhile; not every seller likes to advertise on the Internet.
What to buy
Which car it is supposed to be depends on many factors such as personal preferences and the available budget. Do you need a family car with space for children and prams? Or should it rather be a fun car like a convertible for moody trips? Or even a sports car? Do you need an economical car for long journeys to work or is it intended as a second or even third car for short journeys?
Prospective buyers who can be flexible with their preferences have the advantage. Even those who do not commit themselves to a brand or model including motorization will find a suitable vehicle more easily.
Where to buy
Those interested in a used vehicle have two options for purchasing a vehicle. You can buy it from a private provider or a dealer, regardless of whether you do it the traditional way on site or via an online platform. Cars from private are often cheaper than those from commercial providers, but you get a warranty and liability for defects from the dealer.
But be careful: dealers sometimes work on behalf of private individuals (commission), then they do not provide any guarantees.
When should you buy?
It is best to buy counter-cyclically, i.e. a convertible in autumn and a vehicle in summer that you want to use in winter. In general, the past few years can be observed that during autumn and winter the demand and thus the prices for used vehicles increase. However, in summer – and especially during the holiday season – interest in purchasing a vehicle from previous ownership declines and prices are cheaper.
What should you look for when doing research?
When researching, you should pay attention to information about the age, condition (accident-free) or due date of the next main inspection (HU). The number of previous owners is also interesting information. Is the provider easily accessible and does he answer questions? You can get a first visual impression online using the published images. Does it look neat and clean? Are there interior photos? Do the written statements match the appearance of the vehicle?
One should become suspicious if the price quoted is significantly below the average of comparable offers. There are indeed bargains time and again in the form of a well-preserved, little-used and extremely well-kept car from first ownership, which will be cheap because of the circumstances, but these are rare. If a prepayment is also required, all alarm bells should go off.
Where should you meet the seller?
If you have found a suitable vehicle, a viewing appointment is due. This usually takes place during the day at the dealer’s premises or at the private seller’s home. It is best to take an expert companion with you. If a seller wants to meet in remote parking lots at unusual times, at least skepticism is appropriate.
Which documents are important?
The service book should be fully available; Invoices for inspections or oil changes support the documentation of the service book. Mileage is also recorded in the service booklet. So you can check whether the specified odometer reading is correct. But be careful, a booklet can also be fake; if, for example, the stamp color is exactly the same in all years, this can be an indication that all were stamped at the same time – because stamp color changes over time.
The condition of the interior can also give clues to the odometer reading. A rocky interior, for example, hardly fits low mileage. In addition to the service booklet, the registration certificates part 1 and 2 must of course be available; for vehicles that were registered before 2005, the documents are named in accordance with the vehicle registration and letter.
The test report of the last main inspection is also an important document. You can tell whether the vehicle passed the HU without any problems or only under certain conditions. If there were repair requirements, you should check whether they have been carried out by the vehicle owner. If modifications such as tuning measures have been carried out on the car, these must have been entered in the registration certificate I.
In addition to the main key, the spare key and code cards for the vehicle should also be available.
Why should you do a test drive?
If the vehicle pleases, a test drive should be undertaken, provided the vehicle is registered and insured. Of course, the person willing to buy can identify himself to the seller and has a valid driver’s license. During the test drive, a balanced mix of city traffic, country road and highway should be driven in order to get a good feeling for the car and possible weak points.
Caution should be exercised if the seller tries to avoid certain routes or to distract from using electronic features in the car. If you are unsure whether the vehicle is in a technically good condition, it is advisable to have a used car check carried out by an automobile club or by a test organization. Such a check, which costs around 150 euros, can turn out to be a good investment.
How to complete the purchase?
If the buyer and seller agree, a contract still has to be concluded. If the contractual partner is a commercial trader, he must give liability for defects for at least 12 months. This cannot be ruled out by a wording such as “bought as seen”. The purchase contract should also include a binding assurance of the mileage with “corresponds to the actual mileage” instead of “as far as known” or “according to the previous owner”.
Once you have agreed with a private provider, it helps to use a standard contract such as that provided by automobile clubs or insurance companies. In addition to the exact data on buyers and sellers, the exact condition of the vehicle is described and recorded here, and payment is regulated. These detailed statements will help if there are any discrepancies or even disputes after the purchase.
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