Top 5 tips for buying a second hand car

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“One thing people never ought to be when they’re buyin’ used cars, and that’s in a hurry.”
– California Charlie, Psycho

That quote came from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 movie Psycho, and there’s a lot of truth in it. But that was over 50 years ago and life has gotten a lot more fast-paced since the good old days of B&W films and Marilyn Monroe. We’re so stretched for time now that when it comes to doing some research about a second hand car, it’s highly tempting to just declare “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”


But despite our crunch for time, it’s a big commitment and with car prices the way they are, we want to be pretty confident in a car before we commit to it.

To help you get the best of both worlds and make the process faster while still getting the right information, we asked the guys at Carousell Motors what their Top 5 tips are for buying a second hand car. Just follow these simple tips and you should feel a lot better about your deal.

#1: “Always send the car you’re considering for a simple check up with a mechanic that you trust.” – Bernard

As shiny and sparkly a car might be, you never know what the previous owner did to a car and what might be going on under the hood. If you want peace of mind that you’re getting a good working car, ask the seller to allow you to bring the car down to a trusted mechanic to check on it. It’s the only way to be sure.


#2: “Look out for additional add-ons that come with the car.” – Sanjay

One big difference between new and used cars is that a used car doesn’t always come “stock”. The previous owner might have enhanced the car using aftermarket products, making the car look and run differently from factory models. Maybe it’s a giant wing that you can use as a table to eat instant noodles off, or it could be something under the hood.

This can be great if the car has additional quality parts that greatly improves its performance, but it could also be bad if the parts aren’t quite legal and for some reason, you get a police officer checking out your car.


#3: “Don’t just look at the cost of the car. Look at the depreciation to decide if the deal is a good one.” – Jerry

While the immediate cost of a car determines how much you have to pay for it, the depreciation value of the car (at the time of purchase) is arguably a more important figure to consider. Why? Because this number tells you how much you’ll be losing per year.

In Singapore, car lives are measured in 10-year blocks because the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) required for each car lasts for 10 years. At the end of 10 years, unless you renew the costly COE for your car, the only thing you’ll get back is the car’s scrap value. The difference between the car’s initial price and the inevitable scrap value is the total depreciation, which can be quite significant.

Think of it this way: a car with a high initial cost but a low depre value is actually a better deal than a low-cost car with a high depre value.

Since this number is so important, the guys at Carousell Motors have placed the depre value of all their cars very prominently on the app so that you always have all the right numbers available at a glance.

#4: “Find out the average fuel consumption of the car first.” – Adrian

The cost of a car doesn’t just end with the sale price; keeping it fuelled up could potentially add quite a bit to your costs over time! If you want to have a better estimate of how much this car is going to cost you, you need to be conscious of its fuel efficiency.

A Toyota Prius , for example, is renowned for its fuel efficiency. So if you know you’ll drive a lot, it will save you more money in the long run even if its purchase price is higher than your other option. If you’re looking at a Subaru WRX , well, economy probably wasn’t high on your list of priorities anyway.

While car manufacturers provide estimates of their fuel consumption, these are generally quite optimistic. You might want to go and ask around some car forums and user groups to get a more realistic estimate of a car’s fuel consumption.

#5: “Try to find out the lower limit of the price that the seller is willing to agree to before arranging to see the car.” – Johnny


Some sellers are firm with their pricing, while others have budgeted an additional $1k-2k buffer for potential buyers to knock down. So to avoid wasting each other’s time, it’s good to understand the lower limits of the selling price before going down to view it.

This is where some car etiquette kicks in: please be a serious buyer before taking this step! It’s rude and inconsiderate to bargain down the price without making an offer, and the car community is a place where it’s beneficial to make more friends.


Carousell Motors is our new mobile platform that lets you find the right used car with just a few taps on your phone. You can easily compare cars using advanced filters, bookmark them (and get notified when their prices change), calculate your loans, chat to dealers or sell your current car is just a few steps!

Download the app now!


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