Used Cars Buying Guide – Know What You Need

So first before you do the viewing, it is best to arrange these points…
Trade Me is New Zealand’s largest internet auction website, facilitating millions of online sales since it’s beginning in 1999. Trade Me has grown to be an online market place for both new and used goods, ranging from Queenstown homes to a possessed printer. But one of the more popular product categories that Kiwis seem to find themselves browsing is the used cars section. With more than 32,000 current active listings, Trade Me has a used car for pretty much anyone who is in the market for a new car or an upgrade. So with more than 32,000 active listings on at a time, it can be quite difficult to sift through the lemons and find yourself the ‘gem’ that you are after. Well, finding a ‘gem’ might be a bit of a stretch, but there is bound to be something with a little bit of wear and tear that will suit your needs.
We know of the perils that are out there when dealing with private dealers over the internet. Purchasing a used car can be difficult when you don’t’ know what you are looking for. We have composed a quick list of questions you should be asking yourself before you make a deal and purchase a used car from Trade Me.

It’s what you need, not what you want?

Is it a city runner you need? A family mover? A work hack? Something for long journeys? Or just something a little bit more professional? You would most likely be able to find all sorts of cars listed under those categories, so it pays to know what you are looking for beforehand. If you know you need a cheap city runner for yourself, then there isn’t much point going and looking at 4×4 surfs or V8 Falcons. Stick to what you need and keep to your budget. Search within the criteria you have set yourself and find vehicles of a similar nature, this will make future comparisons with other listings a lot easier.

Has the listing got everything covered?

OK, so you are scrolling through the listings, and one of them caught your eye. Now it is time to read the specs and see what information the seller has supplied about the vehicle. Remember, you are potentially spending thousands of dollars here, you deserve to know what you are purchasing. Failing to know about one fault in a vehicle could set you back hundreds or even thousands! There is always a reason why the car is for sale in the first place, so you have to be careful with private sellers. You want to check for several things:
  • Current Warrent of Fitness (WOF) sheet
  • Distance traveled
  • Any known damages or rust
  • Recent repairs
  • Reason for sale
  • Amount of previous drivers
Essentially the more information, the better. You don’t want to arrange a time to meet up and inspect a vehicle if you have no idea what to look out for. You want honesty in the listing and your potential seller. Scroll down and check beside the seller’s profile to see their feedback as well, it will give you a good indication of whether you can trust them or not.

Have you done your background check?

You can go to and run the plates to do a VIR (vehicle inspection report), to allow you to check the history of the vehicle. A VIR is a great way to check if the vehicle has been; reported stolen, if there is money owing on it, the fuel economy rating and a lot more. It is always best to check the plates as you never know who you are dealing with over the internet. The car may have been purchased with vehicle finance and may still have money owing on it. Get this free check done before you arrange a viewing.

Was it as good in person as it was online?

So first before you do the viewing, it is best to arrange these points:
  • Arrange a viewing during the day and at the seller’s home or work. If they have an issue with meeting you at these places, then there is potential that something could go wrong with the vehicle and they do not wish you to be able to contact them.
  • Bring someone with you, it helps to have someone with knowledge, but also they can help generate more conversations and ask questions that you might miss out when in the heat of the moment.
  • Ask the seller to bring the latest WOF sheet so you can check for faults that may not have been listed in the auction.
Right so now when it comes time to viewing the vehicle, there are several things to look for. We could try to list them all, but this would make this article far too long. Have a read of one of our other car purchasing blogs or check out the NZTA car purchasing guide for what to look out for when inspecting the vehicle.

Is it worth the buy?

So when it comes down to it, does the vehicle live up to the value it is being sold at? Did you find any additional faults and defects? Was it not as nice as it was in the picture? Did you trust the dealer in the end? Go away and think about it. Because you will have more ongoing costs that you need to take into consideration:
  • Is the car older than the year 2000? This will determine whether warrants are required every six months or annually.
  • Is it Petrol, Diesel or Electric powered? You will need to keep fuel costs, road user charges or repair costs in mind.
  • What is the likely servicing costs? Newer cars, European cars and automatics are expected to cost more for servicing.
  • What would your insurance be? Is it turbocharged? A newer model? Is full coverage worth it?
There are several other costs and factors that you must worry about when purchasing a vehicle. Think about the expenses you experience with your current vehicle and whether they are manageable? If your new vehicle is likely to be higher than this, then it might pay to walk away and look elsewhere. Trade Me can be a dangerous place to purchase a used vehicle, as you can never be sure of the cars history and the everyday treatment it had received. Be careful when buying a second-hand car online, and make sure you are purchasing it for the right reasons! If a reliable family vehicle is a must, and you can’t’ afford any surprises down the track, then maybe a new car could be a better option.

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