What to look for when buying a used car

DEKRA Info March 2018

Used cars are on average 6.4 years old

Previous history tells the story

“Even if the quality of our cars has continued to improve these past decades, potential used car buyers should not approach the task of purchasing a pre-owned car any differently than in the past,” warns Ronald Hufnagel, used car expert at DEKRA, referring to the age of the vehicles as a crucial factor. “Used cars sold in Germany in 2016 were on average 6.4 years old – and a lot can happen in 6.4 years. This is why potential buyers should carefully study the previous history of the used car they are looking at,” says Hufnagel.

However, what a used car is really worth is not always easy to spot at first glance. Hufnagel knows that “these days second hand cars are frequently professionally prepared to show off their best side during the purchasing negotiations. This is why you will frequently encounter relatively few signs of wear that could give some indication of the previous history of the vehicle.”

For this reason, car buyers should take a closer look when buying a used car: Where does the car come from? Is the seller trustworthy? “If quite a few previous owners are entered in the registration certificate or vehicle documents, this is an indication that the former owners were obviously not particularly happy with the vehicle for that long. The higher the number of previous owners, the more caution needs to be exercised,” states the expert.

The service booklet and the maintenance and repair bills are also an important source of information. They reveal whether the previous owner regularly observed service deadlines, whether the speedometer reading appears plausible and whether the work recommended by the manufacturer, such as changing the timing belt, has been carried out correctly and in good time.

The potential buyer should also have confirmed in writing as part of the sales contract that the vehicle is accident-free or, in case there had been previous damage, that the buyer can view the repair bills; this is especially necessary if the bodywork has suffered any accident damage. The specialist says that "It is not a good sign if the seller is reluctant to say anything about the vehicle's previous history."


Tilman Vögele-Ebering

Press officer Industrial


Phone +49.711.7861-2122

Fax +49.711.7861-742122

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