So you’re thinking of buying a used car. Now what? How do you know if the car you’ve found online is a good buy? Is it going to be reliable? How can you tell? No one wants to buy a dud or find out they’ve paid more for a car than it’s worth. Here is how to avoid purchase regret.

Do your research

If you want to ensure that you’re getting value for money and not being ripped off, shop around. Doing some research is a great place to start.

Check online and look at other examples of the same vehicle you’re considering. Compare their condition, age, price and mileage with the vehicle you’re interested in. If you find something that’s better, re-think your options. It’s good to stay open-minded and not get trapped into thinking you’ve found ‘the one’ before doing thorough research.

Check the car out and go for a test drive

It goes without saying that you can make anything look good in a photo. Online images advertising a vehicle might make it look like new when, in reality, they’re trying to sell an old banger.

Checking the car out in person and thoroughly examining its condition will help you get an idea if everything is as it seems. Taking it for a drive will also allow you to get a feel for the car, including its handling, transmission and whether it’s really what you’re after.
The AA recommends asking in advance if the seller is able to sanitise the car; if not, take your own sanitising towels along.

Get an independent, expert inspection

Before buying a used car, arrange a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. An inspection can uncover secrets of a vehicle’s past that you can’t spot yourself. This will reassure you that you’re buying
a reliable car before you hand over your money.

Find out the car’s full history

Cars that have records of consistent servicing have usually been well maintained by their owners. Buying a car with a reliable servicing history provides further reassurance that the car you’re interested in is unlikely to need any immediate repairs.

An AA Vehicle History Report scans through three million records covering cars, vans, trucks, motorbikes, caravans and trailers, making it easy to check almost any vehicle in New Zealand.

Find out the car’s true value

A valuation report checks the market price of virtually any make and model of car in New Zealand to ensure that you’re paying fair market value. It will also specify the mileage, condition, fuel consumption and emissions rating of the car, giving you an idea of how much the running costs will be.

When buying a secondhand car, you ultimately want to avoid paying out more in the long run. You can do this by taking your time before making a decision, then making the right choice based on your needs.
Following these steps will help give you some idea about what to look out for, but our team at the AA are here if you need that bit of extra help to decide. 

Reported by Cade Wilson for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue

More information

Here to help

AA Members can book pre-purchase vehicle inspections for $169; find a comprehensive history online for $20, an AA Vehicle Valuation Report for $19.95 or get a vehicle valuation and vehicle history report together for a bundle price of $35.90. 

If you’re an AA Member you can take advantage of our free AA Expert advice service.

The team can offer you all the advice you need when buying a car. If you’re stuck on which car to buy, or you’re worried about inherent problems with certain makes and models of cars, get in touch via email or by calling 0800 500 333.

New! Our navigation has changed.

Use this button to access the site content.

 |  Learn more