Used Cars Buyers Guide

The average used-car price is about half that of the average new-car price. And used cars out sell new cars about 7 to 1. The reason is simple…there are great cars being produced that will last for well over 100,000 miles and you might as well let someone else take the first depreciation “hit”. And, increased leasing has added to the nation’s supply of affordable, well-maintained, low-mileage used cars as the leases expire! Buying the right used car can save you thousands of Nairas/Dollars.
Do Not Pay More For A Car Than You Can Afford!

#1 Ask Yourself…How Much Can I Afford?
Determining what you can afford, or what you can’t afford, is an essential step in preparing to buy a used car. Most people buy used cars because they want to save money, or because they want a certain make and/or model of car that they wouldn’t be able to afford brand new. But just as you need to prepare to buy a new car, research is essential in the used-car buying process, too.
First, figure out your monthly income. It is wise to use net income so that you know exactly what is coming into and going out of your pocket. Next, calculate your monthly expenditures. Include debts, mortgage or rent payments, insurance, groceries, spending money, clothing, etc. Not only will this help you figure out how much you can afford, it will also allow you to see where your money is going. Your monthly finance payment on a used car should not exceed fifteen percent of your monthly income.
Knowing all three of these numbers is important. Some other things to consider when estimating the cost of a vehicle are the costs of fuel, license, registration and insurance. After you’ve found a few cars that you’re interested in, call your insurance company to determine what your monthly insurance cost will be for each car. Insurance, fees and tags for used cars are usually quite a bit less expensive than they are for new cars, if you’re looking at the right models. Keep in mind that some insurance companies may give discounts for vehicles with features such as dual front airbags, side-impact airbags, antilock braking system (ABS) and daytime running lights. Conversely, rates can be higher for young, inexperienced drivers or those with poor driving records, or for cars that come without dual front airbags.
Why Buying a Used Car Can Save You Money

There are more people who could certainly afford high-end, brand-new cars, but choose to buy used instead. Why do you suppose they do it? Well, consider that the value of a new car drops a couple thousand Nairas/Dollars the second it is driven off a dealer’s lot. In fact, if a new-car buyer tried to sell or trade his car on the very same day he bought it, he would have an extremely hard time breaking even.
A new vehicle will depreciate to about one-third of its original cost after only three years, but it will probably run for another eight or nine, or more. Taxes, insurance and other fees also cost less for used cars, making the purchase of a used car an attractive prospect for cost-conscious people in all walks of life.
Cars to Fit Your Lifestyle
The first thing to do is to decide on a class of vehicle that best fits your lifestyle. Choosing a car can be a confusing and time-consuming process. Below are some questions that may help you make your decision easier.
Manual or automatic transmission? Cars with manual transmissions usually cost less than those with automatics.
Two-door coupe or a four-door sedan, an SUV or a station wagon? What best fits your needs?
Do you require two-, four- or all-wheel drive? Location is a prime factor in this decision.
How important is safety? Check any prospective vehicle’s government-tested safety rating, as well as the availability of driver and passenger airbags.
How many passengers do you expect to carry?
Do you require a lot of cargo room?
Will you be taking many road trips?
How long is your daily commute?
Do you need antilock brakes or traction control?
How big of an engine do you want?
Do you tow a boat or camper on a regular basis?
Are there certain features that you must have?
How Young Should The Car Be?
An ideal used car is less than five years old and has less than 50,000 miles on the odometer. These criteria are important because parts wear out due to age as well as excessive use. Acceptable mileage can be slightly modified for certain vehicles that are known to have excellent reliability. For instance, some cars with 60,000 or 70,000 miles still have a long life ahead of them, if the car has been properly serviced.
When looking for low-mileage vehicles, the general rule of thumb is that an average of 10,000 miles per year indicates a prime vehicle. Some people consider 12,000 miles a year to still be quite low, and 15,000 annual miles is considered average. Any vehicle that has been driven more than 15,000 miles per year should be suspect. Consider 10,000 miles per year your target mileage, but be flexible if the car has been well cared for.
Car Shopping
Now that you’ve located a few cars you’re interested in it’s time to go shopping. It is not necessary but it is a good idea if you bring the following items as you go shopping…
A notebook , A pen, A calculator, A watch, Valid driver’s license

Used Cars Test Drive
Stretch the test drive out to give the car a good chance to warm up. Look, listen, smell and be alert to any unusual noises, smells or movements that might indicate a problem area.
What to look for on the Test Drive:
- City street handling
- Highway handling
- Two-lane road handling
- Excessive body lean
- Body motion control
- Noise
- Acceleration
- Idle Steering
- Ease of operation
- Vibration through steering wheel
- Road feel Transmission (Automatic)
- Smooth shifts
- Noise
- Cruise control Transmission (Manual)
- Clutch feel
- Smooth gear changes
- Cruise control Four-wheel drive
- Easy to engage Brakes
- Parking brake
- Brake pedal pressure
- Stopping gradually
- Stopping suddenly
- Antilock brakes From the Driver’s Seat
- Seat comfort
- Headroom
- Instrument panel clarity
- Road visibility
- Steering wheel position
- Legroom
- Ease of control use
- Armrest height
- Headrest comfort
- Power accessories
- Mirror controls
- Radio, cassette or CD player and speakers
- Heater, air conditioner and ventilation
- Remote trunk or fuel-door releases
- Horn operation
- Interior dome light
- Wiper/washer system
- Glovebox
- Cupholders From the Passenger Seats
- Ease of entry and exit
- Legroom
- Headroom
- Shoulder room
- Steering wheel position
- Seat comfort
- Armrest height
- Headrest height
- Strap handles
- Reading lights
- Seatbelt operation
- Passenger airbag availability
- Folding rear seats
- Trunk pass-through
- Rear defogger
- Visor vanity lights Look for quality of
- Upholstery
- Headliner
- Fit of interior panels
- Trim and moldings
- Dashboard
- Carpet and mats Visual Inspection
- Paint
- Rust spots
- Tire tread wear
- Smoke from the tailpipe
- Body-panel dents
Use keys to check the locks and latches
- Doors
- Glovebox
- Anti-theft system
- Gas cap
- Trunk
Check the trunk for
- Spare tire
- Jack
- Lug wrench
- Carpeting and trim
- Trunk light
- Secure latching
Try these
- Trunk release/catch
- Hood release/catch
- Childproof locks
- Headlights
- Parking lights
- Reverse lights
- Brake lights
- Taillights
- Hazard lights
- Turn signal lights
- License plate light

Checklist for Used Cars
Have a Mechanic You Trust Check Out The Car!
It’s always a good idea to have an independent mechanic inspect the car before you buy it. This will cost anywhere from N4,000 ($25) to N24,000 ($150), depending on the car, but it is a worthwhile investment. Tell the independent mechanic that you are considering purchasing the vehicle, and have them check everything out and print up a statement listing any problems they may find. If anything suspicious turns up, ask for a repair estimate. If the problem sounds too complex or too expensive to deal with, don’t buy the car. If the problem is relatively minor but will still require attention, use it as a negotiating tool to try and get a lower price.
Emissions Test
Always have the emissions tested before you agree to buy a used car. Certified testing centers usually charge no more than N3,200 ($20) for the test, and it could end up saving you hundreds of Nairas/Dollars in repair bills to have the test performed. A tailpipe does not have to emit visible smoke for it to fail an emissions test, so while making a visual inspection is advised, it is not the only precaution you should take.
How to get the best deal
Once you’ve found a car that meets your needs and has received a clean bill of health from an independent mechanic, it is time to “make a deal”. The best approach is to negotiate with a smile and try to be as relaxed and calm. No matter how excited about the prospects of owning a new car…try not to show it to the salesman. It is always wise to let the dealer make the first offer. Chances are he’ll offer full price or slightly below. Now, it’s time to make your offer. Come with an offer that is below what you are willing to pay. The dealer may pressure you to come up with a better opening offer. But hold your ground and wait for their counter offer. With each succeeding offer, you and the dealer should be getting closer and closer to your target price. You can see why there is no substitute for knowing the car’s value during negotiations. If someone walks in without knowing what a used car is worth, they may believe the salesman when he says, “I can’t possibly sell you the car for what you want; we’d lose money.”
Fair price
Be sure you know what the final price will be after licensing, taxes, and other fees. Don’t be afraid to bring these fees into the negotiations. You need to say: “I can give you a total of N1,760,000 ($11,000) for this car, including everything…”out the door”..
Negotiation Tips
First, make it apparent that you don’t really care if you get the car today, or ever. There’s always another deal out there if this one doesn’t work out. Also, be ready to leave at any time. If you don’t have the time, don’t feel pressured into staying. Explain that you might come back later.

Use any problems found during the mechanical inspection to drive the price down. If you have a serious concern about the car’s overall ability to fulfill all your needs and expectations by all means mention it. It may make the seller give you a better deal if he thinks that he is losing you.
Closing the Deal
At most dealerships you’re not finished with the deal until you pay a visit to the “Finance and Insurance” office. If you have secured a good interest rate from your bank or credit union, it may be worth your while to see what kind of rate the dealership has to offer. If they can set up a better loan, make sure that the term is the same as the one you have already secured.
Now is the time to discuss warranties, if the subject hasn’t yet come up. Find out if the car comes with a warranty and, if so, the warranty’s terms. If the warranty isn’t comprehensive, ask about purchasing a manufacturer’s used-car warranty, but remember, like everything else, the warranty price is negotiable, too. Be aware that many used-car lots will sell warranties from smaller warranty companies. While many of these companies are reliable, be sure to research thoroughly any company you are considering buying a warranty from before you get to the dealership. Extended Warranties Find out what sort of standard warranty is included with the vehicle or how much an extended warranty will cost. An implied warranty generally exists on all dealer vehicle sales for the first 30 to 90 days. What this means is that if the car blows up a week after the purchase, a reputable dealer will offer some sort of compensation. Sometimes the dealer will fix the car for free, sometimes they will refund your money and sometimes they will offer a substitute vehicle of equal value.
A dealer may offer you a warranty verbally, but it is to your advantage to insist on something in writing. Also, make sure that you completely understand the warranty before you sign any papers. Warranties can differ dramatically from one dealership to the next, so be sure that you know:
what is covered (parts, labor or both) how long the warranty is good (i.e., it could be 30 days for labor and 60 days for parts, 120 days for parts only, or any type of combination)
what percentage of the work is covered (Is it a 50/50 warranty, where you pay half and the dealer pays half, etc?)
if there are any exceptions (Are there certain repairs that will be excluded from warranty coverage?)
Manufacturer extended warranties can also be purchased; these allow you to use the warranty at any dealership service department-not just the one where you bought the car. There are also a number of independent warranty companies that will offer you good extended warranty coverage. You might want to check your local white or yellow pages as well as the Internet.
Finally, you’ll need to sign various papers: the power of attorney that allows the dealership to go to the DMV and register the vehicle for you, the transfer of title if you’re trading in a vehicle, etc. Each document should be carefully read for errors. Once your signature is on the paperwork, the deal is done; this is your last chance to back out of the deal. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t sign. And do not feel pressured or obligated to sign just because of the amount of time invested in the deal by the salesperson. It’s your money!
The dealer will now collect the down payment on the used car and the papers on the trade-in, if applicable. They’ll give you copies of the paperwork, the title (if you’ve paid in full) and warranty information (if the used car comes with one or you’ve purchased one). If you are financing the vehicle, the title will be sent to the bank or credit union and the dealership will provide you with proof of ownership (i.e., temporary registration); within a few weeks, you should receive your official registration and tags.
Now that you own the car…start off right!
Oil – First and foremost, have the oil changed, just to begin a healthy new routine with your new car.
Timing belt – If so equipped, the car’s timing belt should be changed every 50,000 miles. (Most modern engines use rubber belts rather than noisy chains. The problem is that rubber tends to break down after time.) Unless you have a receipt stating exactly when the timing belt was last replaced, it’s a good idea to put a new one in just to be on the safe side for another 50,000 miles.
Tires – Check the tread wear on all four tires. If the wear appears to be uneven, or if the tread is worn, have the tires replaced.
Spark plugs and wires – Inexpensive, and a new set of plugs and wires can do wonders for performance.
Air filter – Another inexpensive part that ensures that your engine is breathing properly.
Hoses – Make a visual inspection of all the wires and hoses in the engine compartment, checking for cracks or bulges near the connection points. If anything looks brittle or corroded, have it replaced immediately.
Radiator fluid – Flush it and start over.
Transmission fluid – The transmission fluid should probably be replaced at least once every 20,000 miles. Transmissions are packed with metal gears that shave and grind each other all day long, and the fluid that lubricates them needs to be clean to minimize wear. Change it and start out clean!
Brake system – Have the brake fluid checked, as well as the thickness of the brake pads.
Enjoy! If you did your research and prepared properly you have made the wisest and best choice possible in your new car. Hopefully you made a good deal! Now is the time to show off your “prize” and be sure to also show it the loving care it needs and deserves during its service to you.