How to buy a used car on your own in Singapore (2020)

The entire application can be done online – simple!

buy used car guide singapore
Reading Time: 9 minutes

So you’re looking to buy a car, and if you’ve landed on this guide, you’re probably considering a used one.

Owning a car in Singapore doesn’t come cheap, so it’s no surprise that used cars are as attractive an option as new ones – according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), over the past 5 years, an average of over 100,000 cars changed hands each year. 100,000!

Here’s our guide to buying a used car on your own:

1. Understand your needs and start your search
2. Shortlist some cars and arrange viewings
3. Inspect the car thoroughly during the viewing
4. Take the car for a test drive
5. Put down a deposit, and apply for a car loan if you need one
6. Apply for car insurance
7. Apply for a transfer of vehicle ownership via the OneMotoring website
8. Enjoy your new ride!

1. Understand your needs and start your search

Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for (MPV for the family? Road trip-worthy ride?), you’re all set to start your car-shopping. Platforms like Carousell lets you look for cars from both direct sellers and used car dealers:

used cars for sale singapore carousell

Considerations to keep in mind during your search include:

Price:

Aside from the selling price of the car, you’ll also want to be looking at the depreciation rate, which determines the value of your car when it’s time for you to scrap or sell it. A more expensive car that depreciates less might give you more value than a cheaper car with merciless depreciation!

Also remember to consider upkeep costs like fuel and parking.

Warranty:

Some used car dealers might offer additional in-house warranty or warranty by a third party insurer (typically a year from the date of purchase).

Convenience:

The car dealers are the ultimate pros at handling all the paperwork and your car loan application. This is definitely something you can do by yourself if you’re buying from a direct seller instead of a used car dealer.

2. Shortlist some cars and arrange viewings

Think you’ve found The One? Chat with the seller to arrange for a viewing of the car. If you’ve got your eye on multiple options, take your time to view each of them. After all, it’s not a small purchase!

Pre-viewing, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions about the condition of the car. What’s the mileage of the car? Has it been through any accidents? Does the car shift smoothly or does it jerk at all? (And during the actual viewing, double-check for these things with your own eyes.)

Give yourself a good 1-1.5 hours for the viewing (and let the seller know to set aside that amount of time as well, especially if it’s a direct owner) so you’ve got ample time to give the car a thorough check-through.

If you’ll feel more at ease leaving it to the pros, engage a pre-purchase car inspection service like Carousell Inspected. With Carousell Inspected, you can request for the seller to send the car to an authorised service centre for a professional health check to understand the as-is condition of the car.

3. Inspect the car thoroughly during the viewing

Ok, this is why we highlighted the importance of giving yourself enough time to view the car. We’ve got a pretty long list of things to check through, so buckle up:

The car’s mileage:

A 2-year old car that’s driven heavily every day could be a lot more worn out than a 6-year old weekend car, so the car’s mileage is one of the best indicators of how used the car actually is. It’s best to have the odometer reading verified through the car’s service records.

Engine:

Check the engine oil on a level ground. Remove the dipstick from the engine. Wipe it clean with a tissue or paper towel. Insert the dipstick back in to the engine again and remove it this time to check the oil level. It should be between the 2 indicative marks.

Also note the colour of the oil. If it appears blackish, it means the engine oil has not been changed for some time. This could indicate that the previous owner is haphazard about the maintenance of his car.

It’s also a good idea to request for the seller to come with previous receipts or service records. And if you do decide to buy the car, ask if you can inherit these records, in case you want to sell the car later on.

Exterior:

Minor scratches are completely understandable, as the car has been used after all.

More importantly, look at the car from an angle and check for ripples or distortion in its light reflections, as these could indicate that the body has received some form of repair after an accident. An accident-free car would have a smooth, straight reflection. Also, check for gaps between body panels, as an uneven gap is also a sign that the car has been through an accident.

Windshield:

These are expensive to replace, so make sure they’re in good condition. Be mindful of hairline cracks as they may sometimes look like a scratch.

Activate the windshield washer to determine that the nozzles are not clogged or damaged. Check the windshield wiper as well, ensuring that they do not leave streaks across the windshield. If the wipers do not wipe off water cleanly, it could mean that they require replacement or that the tension on the wipers are off.

Rust:

Be extra meticulous with this and also check under the carpets on the inside, under the wheel wells, etc.

Wheels and tyres:

First, bend down and look at the wheels closely. Check for any damage to the tyre sidewalls as these could lead to a damaged tyre. Inspect the rims for any bad scratches or damage.

Next, full-lock the steering wheel to one side and inspect the tyre threads. Look out for uneven wear patterns between the inner and outer parts of the tyres. These could indicate that the wheel alignment is off, the suspension is faulty or the wheels are unbalanced and improper tyre pressure.

Be wary of the thread depth as well, anything below 2mm is unacceptable and will require a replacement of the tires.

Horn and lights:

Sound the horn, and check that the headlights, headlamps, indicators and hazard lights are working.

Electronics, IU and air-con:

If you’re the one controlling the Spotify playlists playing in your car, you’ll probably also be concerned about the quality of the music. Check that the Head-Unit is functioning well and all buttons work, and that the audio is not distorted.

Make sure the in-vehicle unit (IU) is working, i.e. it’s able to read and detect the value of the card inserted.

The air-conditioning unit should have strong airflow and power. If the air isn’t cooled enough, it might just be the case of a low refrigerant charge, and adding refrigerant to bring the system up to full charge will do the trick. But if you can’t identify the problem, it might indicate that the air-con unit needs a bigger repair job.

4. Take the car for a test drive

Before the test drive, the seller might request for you to sign a test drive indemnity form, which indemnifies them against any liabilities caused during the test drive.

Before beginning the test drive

The first thing to do is to check that the engine starts properly without any prolonged cranking. Anything more than 3 seconds and you should probably walk away. Difficulty to start a car might be attributed to a weak battery or faulty starter motor. However, it can also be an indication of more serious engine issues.

Before you start the car, step on the brake pedal. After the car has started up, you should feel the brake pedal depress if it has power or served brakes. Step on it hard now and if the pedal sinks much further, there could be something wrong with the master cylinder.

Driving down a straight road

Drive the car down a straight stretch of empty road and release your hand from the steering wheel. The car should continue to cruise straight; if it pulls to one side, it indicates that the wheels are out of alignment.

As you brake, take note of any vibrations. This could mean that the brake disc could be warped and might need replacement. Listen for any screeching noise as well when braking, this indicates that the brake pads might be worn.

Driving around turns

Also u-turn to the right and left to make sure the car turns smoothly and silently. If there are any unusual clicking sounds, this might indicate the Constant Velocity (CV) joints are in poor condition. A damaged CV joint might mean you’ll eventually have to replace the entire drift shaft, and this costs a bomb.

5. Put down a deposit, and apply for a car loan if you need one

Ready to call dibs? A verbal agreement isn’t legally binding, so it’s a good idea to put down a deposit. There’s no stipulated amount especially if you’re dealing with a direct seller – just be sure to get a payment receipt or Sales and Purchase Agreement from the seller. This should also indicate the agreed price and the handover date of the car.

Before putting down this deposit, work out how you’re going to finance your car purchase by securing a car loan if necessary and working out a viable repayment scheme. This is just to make sure you’re ready for the financial commitment of owning a car – if you’re unable to pay for the rest of the car upon vehicle transference, you’ll have to forfeit your deposit.

Even if you haven’t got a car dealer to help you with this, the process can still be fairly simple. Swiftquote can help to find you a car loan with the lowest interest rate, and also guide you through the loan application process.

The maximum loan amount you can get is based on the Open Market Value (OMV) of the car: up to 70% of the purchase price if the OMV is up to $20,000, or up to 60% of the purchase price if the OMV is above $20,000.

6. Apply for car insurance

Also start looking for car insurance, as you’ll need this before the car can be officially transferred to you. Services like Swiftquote can help you get competitive car insurance quotes – based on your car model, years of driving experience and no claims discount, they’ll source for the lowest premiums from their network of car insurers:

swiftquote cheap car insurance singapore

7. Apply for a transfer of vehicle ownership via the OneMotoring website

If you’re buying through a used car dealer, they can help you with officially transferring the vehicle ownership over to you.

If you’re buying through a direct seller, this process is a lot easier now that it can all be done online via the OneMotoring website.

The seller will need to initiate the transfer, so they’ll need your identification number, name, mobile number and email address. Once they’ve completed this initial of the application, you’ll be sent an SMS to login and confirm the transfer.

Login to the OneMotoring website with your SingPass and confirm the transfer by providing the vehicle registration number, a credit/ debit card or internet banking account to pay the fees, and valid motor insurance under your name, covering the full period of the car’s valid road tax.

If you’re not eligible for SingPass (i.e. you’re a foreigner), both you and your seller will have to go to the LTA Customer Service Centre to complete the application in person. Bring along your identification documents and original motor insurance certificate.

At this point, you’ll also have to pay the balance of the purchase price. Ideally, ask for a payment receipt from the seller.

Note that in order for the vehicle ownership to be successfully transferred to you, the seller has to have settled any outstanding vehicle loan on the car.

7. Enjoy your new ride!

And that’s it!

You might want to do one final inspection before you officially take over the car keys. And if all’s good, you’re now the proud owner of your new-to-you car. Both parties should also sign a vehicle handover form, just so the entire transaction is accurately recorded in writing.

Now that you’re clearer about the buying process, happy car-shopping!

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