Back to Top

Buying a used car from a dealer?


So, after countless hours spent sitting behind your desk energetically doing your job, your butt cheeks have now spread so far apart they are practically on opposite continents and rarely see each other. And you have also put in enough overtime to fully qualify for vampire citizenship. While your stress levels are solidly high enough to be used for mounting the Statue Of Liberty on.

But, it’s now time to scream hallelujah and deliriously start dabbing as your hard work has been recognized and you have finally been promoted. Now that you have got an improved pay check and the status to go with it what do you do with the money? Soak it in curd and eat it with bread? Or throw a party and bathe with it? Why of course you start planning to get a car. Preferably a spanking new one that glimmers like it was freshly washed with diamonds and roars like a lion with a swollen nut and a newly uprooted tooth when you touch the accelerator. Apart from also being able to speed around town like an alcoholic witch on a NOS-soaked broomstick. 

However, after serious consideration you realize that your interests and the health of your account balance would be better served by getting a used car instead. Thankfully not a beat-up crud that even a poor beggar would be ashamed to be seen in. But, an eminently presentable piece of work lovingly tended to since it’s birth at the automobile factory.

You ask friends about trusted car brands and things to look out for when buying used cars. Do some online research. And stare at enough car images and videos to ensure your dreams are entirely populated by cars and more cars in a car universe doing car things. Later, you locate a car dealership nearby and make a weekend appointment over the phone to meet with the dealer.

The day of the appointment finally arrives and you board an unforgivably rickety, rusty cab driven by what must be a frustrated NASCAR driver to the local used car dealership. On getting there the dealer ceaselessly grins at everything and everyone like a suited shark eager to show off it’s gleaming teeth. He then proceeds to welcome you with a rib-cracking hug and nearly tears your hand off at the shoulder, so furiously hard does he shake it. You wonder if he hasn’t perhaps mistaken you for a long-lost relative with a prodigious inheritance. Then you dismiss your train of thought to focus on the task at hand. 

You are given the five-star treatment and taken around the showily appointed dealership. And is it magnificent! The dealer is apparently unable to stop talking and by the time you realize what is happening a car has been chosen for you. According to the all-knowing dealer, the chosen car fits you so well that you and it might well be related in some parallel universe. You drive it around and from the way it handles he seems to be right. You can therefore barely stay coherent enough to express your profound thanks and dream about somehow nominating the dealer for a Nobel peace prize. 

All seems to be going great and you can’t believe your massive luck in getting a car so beautiful and packing so many features for what seems to be a pittance. You get home and to celebrate you take the whole family out for a meal. Or try to anyway because the car refuses to start no matter how hard you pump the pedal or how many prayers you feverishly shout to all the gods.

In a rage you are quite ready to carry the car on your head right then back to the dealer. But your poor wife pleads with you not to leave her a widow just yet and you reluctantly resolve to get it towed to where you bought as soon as possible.

Early on Monday you are back at the dealership and this time the dealer is not smiling as much. You furiously rave and rave but all he does is just stare pityingly at you like a tiger looking at a poor little lost sheep. Then he brings out documents you signed when you bought the car that absolve him of blame if anything goes wrong with it. He also reminds you that you had apparently neglected to thoroughly inspect the car before purchase. And sneeringly says that there is nothing he can do.

Nor is there anything much you can do. Except to perhaps scream your head off and wildly tear off chunks of your hair. 

Such scenes and even worse are repeated daily worldwide as dealers unite in robbing their customers blind with a nice smile, a firm handshake and a thoroughly evil heart. If you want to buy a car, especially a used one, then you are in danger. The only way to save yourself, your money and your sanity is to read up on the rest of this article and hence discover how to get the best of dealers. And as well get your money’s worth.



1.DON’T RUSH: When shopping for cars it’s always best to play it cool and act like you’ve got all the time in the world. Sure we understand that you got lots of things to do and not enough time to do them all. That might be why you daily bolt your meals like it might bite and zip around like the Flash to appointments, work and pretty much anywhere else. 

Ditch that habit soon though or it will see you get savagely knocked out by even the dullest used car dealer out to make a big buck at your expense. He/she will expertly lever on your sense of urgency to saddle you with a dressed up white elephant that you will be in too much of a rush to properly inspect. The car will surely break your heart, gobble up all your money and worry you to an early grave. 


2.GET INFORMED: In this age of the internet with it’s overload of information on all subjects under the sun, it is virtually a cardinal sin to be woefully unaware of the car market and its trends. As well as the necessary things to look out for when buying used cars and the pricing and features list of your intended purchase.

You have absolutely no excuse not to do so with the easy availability of a plethora of specialist websites, including (that's us), offering invaluable and esoteric expert car advice on virtually every car and chariot ever made. It is therefore imperative that you walk into any showroom completely informed and able to do at least a rudimentary car inspection. While at least knowing  what your hard-earned money is getting you.

Ignorance is an Achilles heel that car dealers gleefully exploit. Either stay on the ball or you will surely regret it in spades.


3.WATCH FOR SCAMS: The ‘Certification’ scam is a particular favourite that is adroitly performed by most dealers. In reality, it’s just a useless tag that is slapped on to justify your paying through the nose and mouth for cars that aren’t really worth such a bonus. The fact is that the modern day automobile if well maintained will excellently perform it’s intended tasks and will not develop any major issues for a long, long while. Even after several years of use and countless miles under the hood, it will still determinedly roar on with a will like a prize bull.  

The hyped-up certification brouhaha is therefore a little known ruse that dealers pull in collaboration with website companies for the purpose of tweaking search algorithms. To have a ‘CERTIFIED’ tag on their portal is a guaranteed way to have a prospective vehicle rank first in an online search for suitable used cars to acquire. 

The tag is easily obtainable by any dealer via the simple expedient of paying a regular fee to ‘accredited’ websites. With the cost being eventually palmed off to you the poorly informed buyer. In most cases, the cost of buying a ‘certified’ vehicle is less than its actual maintainance cost. Which is something that is rarely advertised and for good reason.

  Though cars are presumably tested before being put up for sale it is still absolutely necessary that you subject your prospective ride to a rigorous inspection and not let that much trumpeted certification lull you into a false sense of security. If you don’t know much about mechanical things then don’t hesitate to come along with a qualified mechanic who will offer expert car advice and perform a thorough used car inspection for you. At least look under the hood yourself, you might well find the eight wonder of the world lurking down there. 

The long and short of this is that certification in most cases is a scam for purely monetary benefit to the dealer. And that a car is only as good as it has been thoroughly tested by you only. Rather than by the dealer or his representatives. 


4.EXPECT EXPERTLY LYING LIARS: Most car dealers are liars and particularly expert in that difficult craft. As a result, it’s absolutely normal for them to lie about who and who owned which cars in their dealerships. Along of course with other facts you might be interested in knowing. The regularly used shpiel is one where the rich NRI owner had to go overseas urgently and is letting go of a beauty cheaply. Or of a rich guy with more money than sense wanting to change his car and get a newer model after using his old one for less than a year.

Firstly, these tales are too often repeated to ever be true. Secondly, do understand that a car is just stock to them. They therefore absolutely do not know nor care about it’s prior history. So, most of those splendidly told tales about owner histories are made up and with no supporting facts whatsoever. The dealer’s fundamental goal is simply to buy cheap and sell at a premium. No more. No less. No emotion involved.

The only history that is of any use to you is the car service history. Even if the car was previously owned by the Queen of England or Mr Bean,  that is totally irrelevant as long as both lavished care and attention on it. Which you should be able to tell by looking under the hood and poking around therein like any proper busybody. So, ignore dealers and their pretty tales by moonlight. 



‘This sticker price is for today only, Sir.’

‘Another customer has almost cracked the deal, Sir.’

‘We have already received a token for this car and the customer is waiting for his loan approval. But if you like it very much and can do a cash payment right now I will most happily sell it to you, Sir.’ 

All these and more are well-polished lines crooked dealers use that to put it mildly are as far from the truth as a meal of grilled lamb with mayonnaise would be to a Neanderthal. They aim to stampede you into making a decision you will inevitably later regret. And oh boy are they successful! 

Fake customers are even used in some cases, especially when you make an appointment to meet a dealer. These customers pretend to inspect cars you might be interested in. And some even go as far as making tempting offers to the dealer right in your presence.

There you are sweating and feeling what seems to be a really sweet deal slipping from your grasp as the fake customer expertly does what they were hired to do. You then react by trying to match his/her offer and the price starts climbing like a jet fighter on afterburner. As a result, you will most probably pay extortionate prices for a car that in all probability is barely worth a heartfelt fart.

Beware of these very dodgy and common tactics and take anything you see or hear in the showroom with a big pinchful of salt and other seasoning. More, ensure you come along with all your common sense fully charged up and working when car shopping. That is if you don’t want to be unmercifully fleeced. 


6.DISREGARD DEALER WARRANTIES: Cars sold with a six month warranty invariably come with a higher price tag. Ask yourself why since the car was certified as being in ‘pristine’ and ‘perfect’ condition at the onset of the sale was the warranty needed in the first place? Do the dealers no longer have faith in their products?

The truth is more prosaic. Listen, fam; cars sold with a warranty are generally so well maintained that they will never need major intervention within a six month period. If and when the car does need exhaustive servicing, it will be well after this 6 month period and the hefty costs will be entirely borne by you.

 In addition, you will have forfeited a warranty charge that benefits ONLY the dealer. Therefore, buy the car outright and save that added charge. Be firm in making this demand and save money on your purchase.


7.ARDENTLY BRUSH UP YOUR NEGOTIATING TRICKS AND EXPERTISE:  To buy a used car you must first face off with a dealer. Who in all probability is looking to palm off a useless rust-bucket older than Methuselah to you. To emerge winner in this ever-entertaining if stressful duel you must therefore fight fire with fire by adopting sly tricks of your own. These include:

A. DON’T NEGOTIATE: By far the best negotiating trick when buying a used car is to not negotiate at all. Yes, you heard right. Let the dealer instead talk his head off and do the job for you and the battle is half won.

The first thing the dealer or his/her sales attendant might do is to ask you for your budget or the maximum amount you are prepared to spend as your monthly car EMI. Resist the temptation to hold forth and instead be very close-mouthed about your financial means and intent. 

Firmly tell them that you are looking for a particular car or a specific model and that you will buy ONLY if you are satisfied that their car  totally meets your previously carefully chosen specifications. They will thus be unsettled and speedily present the best car in their possession for your grudging approval. Choose the car you like, ask for the price and then bargain without zeroing in on a specific figure.

Instead, mildly say something like, ‘Is that the best you can do?’ Be absolutely non-committal as to the price, which will make the dealer bend over backwards like a bamboo shoot in a hurricane to make a sale to you.

Even if the dealer reaches a figure that is well within your budget, don’t be satisfied. Rather, torture him/her by asking for time to decide. Then exchange numbers and walk away like you don’t have a care in the world. This is imperative and keeps opponents wildly guessing. Chances are that the dealer will quickly get back to you ready and eager to agree to your terms.

B. PLAY FOR TIME:To buy needed time to consider an offer in depth, cleverly endeavor to fool the dealer into believing that the car is for a relative, friend or basically anyone other than yourself. This just might  put them on the back foot and force a reduction in price. It’s a harmless stunt that is easy to perform and may well save you some money on a deal.

C. WALK AWAY LIKE A BOSS: Walking away in a huff, the old but still astoundingly effective trick your grandma practices at the local vegetable market never fails to elicit a response from a desperate dealer.

 In this cutthroat world no one really wants to lose a prospective deal that might be eagerly snapped up by competitors. Therefore, walking away even from an apparently great deal will force a drop in price. Old tricks are still the best, so use this particular one like you invented it all by yourself.


8.REMEMBER THE NO REFUND RULE: In between milking a chicken and playing footsy with a saw-scaled viper do remember that the token amount you reluctantly coughed up to prove your commitment to a deal is usually non refundable. Therefore, be absolutely sure of the purchase before you get to this phase and don’t be found second guessing your deal after relinquishing that token.

Carefully and patiently take the time and trouble to go over the vast options available in the market before you zero in on a car. And only then do you lock up the deal with a token payment. Otherwise, you are better off setting fire to the cash used for the token and boiling a kettle of water with it.


9.NEVER OWE THE CAR DEALER: Getting a car loan from the very same car dealer you are supposed to buy a car might at first seem ideal. Till I help you take a real closer look at the deal.

 To reap more profits car dealers will invariably offer a comfortable EMI with a longer period and at a higher interest rate. Therefore, the best thing to do is to simply select your car, negotiate the price, strike a great bargain and then arrange a loan from a third party or a financial institution. Keep it sweet and simple.


10.MIGHTILY FEAR TRADE IN’S: When you lock in on a good price for your car at a dealership do NOT use your old vehicle as a bargaining chip at the same dealer. If you do your older car will most probably be grossly undervalued and the differential cost that you will have to pay will thereby increase.

With their finely honed acumen dealers are proficient masters at making deals that benefit only them. It is therefore vital that you never take your old car to a dealer with the notion of a trade in. Instead, be comprehensively informed as to the value of your car and sell it feature to feature at the best possible price to a direct party totally unknown to the dealer or his intelligence network.

 Scour the Internet or the local markets and maximize the returns from the sale of your own car by arming yourself with the necessary information. Your car and account balance will later thank you for it.


11.PAY OFF LOANS PRONTO!: Listen carefully, trading in or swapping cars with a loan that is yet to be paid off to dealers or buyers who assure you of repayment on your behalf by signing on a simple stamped paper is absolutely forbidden.

The unsurprising reason is that should the dealer or the buyer of the car fail to pay the EMI’s as promised, the only person to get a default notice would be you. And all for a car that is no longer yours anyway!

More, the agreement you signed with the new buyer is not valid in any court of law. This is because when you originally bought the car and signed for it you also signed a sub-clause that expressly forbids you from entering into any kind of sub contract with a third party. In short, you cannot transfer your liability and even if you do you are still entirely liable! Talk about trouble in 3D!

To avoid this incredibly knotty situation in your desperate bid to switch cars, you must waive your loan by getting a No-Objection certificate from the concerned financial institution. Only then do you sell your car. And rest easy as a peach.



Buying a used car can be either a mighty ordeal or a lovely picnic in the park depending on how you go about it. With dealers savagely out for your blood and furiously baying for your money you must always bring your A game to get the best of them. And get to go home in something other than an ancient boneshaker that will malevolently leave burns and calluses on your posterior. And as well vigorously shake your bank account, body and emotions to pieces.

Beware of car dealers and their oh-so-sweet tongues. And whenever you meet them gird your loins and aggressively rev yourself up for the car of all battles.