Buying a second-hand car offers great advantages – but not without added risk. Here’s everything you need to know before you sign on the dotted line.
This post was published on 19 Sep, 2018
• Defining your budgets and needs
• Necessary research (and where to find the answers you’re looking for)
• At the dealership
• Financing
• Insurance

New isn’t necessarily better. These days, there are many reasons to opt for a second-hand car. With enough bargain-hunting, homework and planning, great deals are available, yet second-hand buying also comes with its own share of risks – from hidden damages to high insurance quotes and sleek salesmen – it takes a keen eye and prepared mind to find a peach of a deal and avoid buying a lemon. 

1. Define your budget 

First things first – define your budget and assess your needs. With the power of the internet, potential buyers now have a host of tools at hand to plan the financial implications of buying a car. Most online car websites and banks feature easy-to-use repayment calculators to determine ballpark repayments based on different purchase prices. 

NB: Don’t forget to factor in the added costs that come with buying a car – such as “on-the road” costs, replacement parts, service costs and insurance premiums. 

2. Head over heart
Buying a car is a long-term financial decision – and the repayments last much longer than the excitement of your new purchase. Therefore, choosing your wheels should be a rational decision, not an emotional one.

Once you know how much you can afford to spend, it’s time to define your needs. Do you need a reliable commuter for everyday use, or are you willing to settle for higher mileage in exchange for more comfort and luxury? Ideally, a second-hand car should be a demo model that’s less than two years old and has less than 15 000 kilometres. 

3. Do your research

Once again, the internet can be an invaluable tool. Never start searching for only one specific make or model and stay open-minded about your options – using car trading websites will quickly give you an indication of what a reasonable price for any given model should be, and thus help you to spot a good deal from an overpriced one.

Make sure to read reviews and frequent problems on specific models. 

4. Don’t get over-excited

You’ve done your homework, found a few possibilities and now it’s time to head into the dealership to see the car for yourself. This is where a cool head is needed.

For starters, choose a reputable dealer. Read up on their track record and research compliments and complaints about their after-sales service before you visit them. Where possible, avoid buying a car from friends and family which might leave you with no recourse if anything goes wrong.

Never seem over excited about a specific car. Your heart may be racing at the sight of it and suddenly all reason goes out the window… all you want to do is to get behind the wheel and take it round the block. Remember, good sales people are trained to hone in on your excitement and can quickly talk you into a corner before common sense prevail. 

5. Be thorough

A test-drive should never be as simple as just getting in and driving off. Before driving off, check the following items off your list:

• Uneven wear on brake discs.
• Oil colour – it should be a rich golden brown, not black.
• Check if the battery terminals have any kind of build-up.
• Tyres should be in good condition with even wear.
• The body work should be straight - check body seams in the engine bay and boot for sings of repair.
• Check the handbrake strength by giving the car a good push.
• Be wary of a new battery or tires – these could indicate of looming problems that are being hidden, such as a faulty alternator or suspension issues.
• Look closely for paintwork that seems a tad different from the overall paint-job – that could indicate post-accident repairs.
• Check the car’s warranty, service plan and make sure it has a full service history.

Tip: Read the seller’s body language. Are your checks or question making them uncomfortable? Are they trying to rush you into making a decision? Trust your gut, and walk away if it doesn’t feel right.    

6. The test-drive

Before you drive off, ask the seller to switch on the engine and let it idle for a few minutes. Test the wipers, lights and listen carefully for any unusual engine noises. Switch the engine off.

Check all switches carefully, look for loose wiring that might just be tucked away and check that the air conditioner, seat rails and seatbelts are functioning as they should. 

During your test drive, test all the gears and keep an ear out for any unusual noises. Give it a few minutes after the test drive and check if any fluids may have leaked. 

7. Negotiate

One of the biggest perks of buying second-hand is that there is a lot more room for negotiation. You should always try to negotiate as much as possible and even if you can’t get the price to drop, you can at least negotiate with the dealership to take care of ‘on-the-road’ costs or licencing fees. 

8. Financing  

Very few people can afford to buy a car with a once-off cash payment. When financing your new car, make sure to consider your options carefully. Reputable dealers will help you to arrange finance on the spot.

Remember: financiers are vying for your business and you should be wary of financing options that sound too good to be true. Make sure you understand the full picture when looking at “balloon payments” or no-deposit deals.

Don’t fall into the trap of buying a more expensive car than your initial budget allows, simply because the monthly repayment seems low – this will probably cost you more than you can imagine in the long-run.

9. Insurance
One of the most important considerations of buying a second-hand car, is insurance. Before signing on the dotted line for your car, shop around for insurance quotes on that specific make, model and mileage.

Don’t choose an insurer on price alone – a lower monthly premium might very well be an indication of a larger excess or inferior cover. Be sure to understand exactly what you’ll pay, the cover you’ll get, and the excess you’ll be liable for in case something goes wrong.

Tip: don’t forget to ask about value-added extras when shopping for insurance. For example, Old Mutual iWYZE gives you a 10% Cash Back Bonus as well as FREE roadside and emergency assistance, among many other value-adds.

10. Enjoy the ride
Once you’ve done all of the above, get out there and enjoy your new wheels. If purchased carefully, second-hand cars offer great value for money and features, as well as lower insurance premiums as a general rule. Maintain your new ride as per the manufacturer’s instructions and your baby will likely give you many happy miles in return.  


Buying a second-hand car you can trust can be tricky… insuring it needn’t be. Old Mutual iWYZE offers affordable, reliable insurance that provides comprehensive cover, is packed to the brim with value-added extras and offers an optional Cash Back Bonus. You’ve chosen your new wheels wisely… now do the same with the way you insure it. Get a quote online from Old Mutual iWYZE


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