Searching for a second-hand car can be a daunting task. You can end up trawling endless listings online, or braving the car yards, only partially certain that the car you’re being sold isn’t a dud.

However, this task gets a lot easier when you already have a good idea of what you’re after, and what needs checking before you contact that seller. Knowledge is power, after all.

Here’s 6 things you should research and decide on before you reach for the keys.

1. Budget

Money is one of those things that we all need to talk about, but we like to act like it doesn’t matter. If you decide what your budget will be before you head out, it’ll help with making up your mind on later options.

Don’t forget to factor in things like car rego, insurance, regular maintenance, and running costs when you sit down and work out your ideal price range.

2. The type of vehicle

What lifestyle factors weigh in when you’re considering the type of car you’re looking for? Consider things like how many passengers you typically carry, the kinds of equipment you carry, and the environment you’re most likely to drive through. From there you can work out what type of vehicle you’re after (SUV, Sedan, People Mover, Hatchback, Ute, etc).

Once you’ve got the type of vehicle sorted, you can start looking at models of vehicle and subsequently…

3. The make of vehicle

The company that makes your ideal type of car will influence a few overarching things – general price range, wear patterns, safety standards. Keep in mind that often car makers will source parts from other countries or manufacturers, and this can have interesting results.

Take the Holden Vectra for example – although it was sold in Australia under an Australian maker’s name, they were manufactured in Germany by Opel, meaning that replacement parts needed to be shipped over for repairs.

This isn’t something that we have a whole lot of control over as buyers, but it is something worth factoring into the decision-making process.

4. The age of the vehicle

Age impacts the performance of cars. It’s an established fact. When you’re hunting for a used car, you’ll want to take into account the year of manufacture, and the range of kilometres already on the odometer.

Here’s some wise things to do: check for reviews of cars that match the year and kilometre range to what you’re after. See if there are any common issues that might surface in the near future. You should also check and see when the major services are recommended for your ideal cars – it’s pretty common to see used cars put on the market either at or just before their first major service. This is not a bad thing, but it can mean a hidden (large) cost if you’re not prepared for it.

5. The location of the vehicle

Where did the car you’re looking at originate from? I’m talking area within Australia now. If the car you’re eyeballing is from inland, it’s less susceptible to rust. Although a somewhat sad thing, it’s a fact of our beach-loving lifestyle. Cars that come from the coast are more likely to carry, or contract rust at a sooner point in time.

6. The history of the vehicle

This one can be a little tricky to do simply online, and is one of the things you’ll actually want to check when you’ve got the vehicle in front of you. Ask the seller about its history – regardless of whether the car’s come from a dealership or a private seller, they should have the paperwork.

When purchasing a second-hand car, it is important to know about any adventures it might have had in the past, for two large reasons. The first is simply making sure that everything is above board and that the car is/was not stolen at any point (you can pretty much skip this if you’re visiting a car dealership). You can ask for and run the car’s VIN plate to verify this.

The second reason to ask about the history of the car is to check and see if it’s been in any accidents before. For the most part, you should be okay, but if the vehicle was once written off and has since been repaired, you will want to know.

One Last Tip…

When looking at a second-hand car, you should have it checked by an independant mechanic. Don’t just ask for a once-over – request a comprehensive safety check (It’s also called a 40-point check).

A new car is an important purchase, and not just because you only make it once in a blue moon. You’re looking at a primary method of transport for you and your family, and your days of accidentally buying a mechanical lemon are far behind you. You’re after a solution that is safe and reliable, and by carefully researching your ideal vehicle, you’ll find one that meets both those needs.