8 common mistakes when buying used cars


Posted by: Juliet Onyeachonam

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Not running Customs and VIN checks are buyers common mistakes when buying used cars. Click here for the other 6 big mistakes of Nigeria car buyers!


Buying a car can bring another level of living for you and your family

Buying a car can be quite exciting for everyone, especially for first-time buyers. In all that excitement of buying a new car and sometimes due to inexperience, some buyers end up with a car that is no good.

When you buy a brand new car from an auto dealership, you usually have nothing to worry about regarding the condition of the car. But when buying a used car, you do need to be careful about the condition of the engine, transmissions and overall performance of the car. 

This Naijauto.com car buying guide shows you buyers' common mistakes when buying used cars so as to avoid ending up with a piece of junk or at worst, a stolen vehicle.

1. Buying in a hurry

Always remember that you do not buy used cars in a hurry. When buying a used car, the approach is slow, slow and some slower! Don’t let anyone, especially the seller, talk you into making a hurried buy. If you need to bring in a mechanic to check things out for you, by all means, do so. Do not take your seller’s word for it. Although it is not all sellers or car dealers that will knowingly conceal a fault or lie to a potential customer, it doesn’t hurt to be double sure before buying. Ask for time to bring in your own trusted mechanic if you are not sure about how to check things out yourself.

A common selling gimmick car sellers use to get buyers to make a hurried buy is by saying there are a number of others considering the same car. Please take note that in most cases, this is nothing but a marketing strategy. Do not fall for it. Take your time to carry out all necessary checks and inspections of the vehicle before making payment.

2. Showing excess interest

While it's good that you have indicated your interest to purchase a particular vehicle from your seller, you might be doing yourself more harm than good by showing how enthusiastic you are on making the purchase. This could make your seller take undue advantage of your zeal to hike his price or totally rip you off especially when you are inexperienced at car buying.

 Even when you think you have found the car you want at a great price; always double-check the price elsewhere and do not show your excitement just yet. Save your excitement until you have sealed the deal and gone home with your car.


When you have found the car you want, do not let your excitement lead to mistakes

3. Going for the cheapest

Sorry to burst your bubble, when it comes to car buying, the cheapest doesn’t mean the best deal. Sometimes and in most cases, too cheap could mean the vehicle is either stolen, has a major fault or is a totally refurbished scrap. For tokunbo cars, it could mean the vehicle was not properly cleared by the Nigerian Customs at the port of entry. Do not fall for the gimmicks of too cheap vehicles. Always investigate to find out why the vehicle is cheaper than what it normally should be.

To avoid the trickery of buying a stolen vehicle, if you are not buying the vehicle directly from its previous owner, make sure to ask for the vehicle’s particulars and crosscheck it against a vehicle registration database. A simple check of the number plates against FRSC's or vehicle registration database will reveal the identity of the previous owner, the VIN number of the vehicle and also the type and color of the vehicle.

In a case where you are buying a foreign-used vehicle (tokunbo) from a car dealer, the most important check to carry out is VIN and Customs checks. For Custom check, you can go to your nearest customs office with VIN of the vehicle and have them run it against their database to find out if the vehicle was properly cleared by customs at the port of entry. This will only cost you a token of between 2000 – 5,000 depending on your location.


When it comes to car buying, the cheapest doesn’t mean the best deal

4. Buying an unpopular brand

Although it is true that no one will fault you for having a preference for a particular brand of car over the rest, it makes no logical sense to buy a second-hand car whose parts are not readily available in the market. Buying a used version of any unpopular brand in Nigeria means you will literarily walk with your head each time your car needs a replacement of a part. Since it's a second-hand car, it would certainly need more servicing from time to time than if it was brand new.

Do not make that mistake of buying a second-hand model of an unpopular brand. For example, while buying a Renault will make you stand out in the midst of Volkswagen Golf owners, Renault cars and parts are not as readily available in Nigeria as Golf parts. 

5. Basing your judgment on appearances

Simply put, appearances can be deceiving. A lot of people base their judgment of a car’s condition on its outward appearance, an ironic case of judging a book by its cover. The implication of these sort of common mistakes when buying used cars cannot be overemphasized. Just because a car looks great on the outside and on the inside doesn’t mean everything is okay with the car. To determine the condition of any used car, you should take a look at the engine to see things for yourself.


To ascertain the true condition of the used car, take a look at the engine 

Listening to the sound of the engine can also help in telling what condition the car is in. However, you need to have been a pro at judging engine sounds before this time. There is also the transmission inspection by which you can tell if it’s okay or not after you have test-driven the car. 

6. Not carrying out proper checks

When buying a used car, there are three basic checks you should carry out before finally making payment.

These three checks include:

  • Mechanical Check

This is best done by an experienced mechanic who you trust. You should avoid using mechanics that might be known to your seller or dealer. Most of these guys cut back deals with car dealers to say everything is okay when the case is the reverse. You should also see these 8 car parts every customer should carefully check when buying a used car

  • VIN Check

A VIN check is a vehicle's history report. It will often give you first-hand information about the life of the car from the moment it left its production line into the possession of all its owners abroad before coming into Nigeria. A VIN check will expose any major accident the car has had, its primary features, specs or model and trim.


VIN checks are easy

You should also know that you can get a basic VIN report on any car that originated from the USA or Canada online for free. You can check for Free VIN checks websites online. We also recommend that you check with AutoDNA.Com

  • Customs Check

Lastly, not performing a Customs check is another one of buyers’ common mistakes when buying used cars. You shouldn’t make this mistake as driving a vehicle not properly cleared by the Nigerian Customs could lead to such vehicles being confiscated by Customs if you are caught. There is no shortcut to this one when you are apprehended; you are either made to pay the full customs clearance for the vehicle or forfeit your vehicle to the government.

You should also be wary of fake custom clearance papers, the more reasons you should verify all custom papers before buying any car.

>>>You may also like to read:

7. Thinking your car is an investment

Your car is a lot of good things, but an investment is not one of them. Cars usually never appreciate over time, unlike other investments like land. What this teaches you is to spend for today. Don't let the dealer make you believe you can buy at ₦1 and make ₦2 after 3 years. The resale value does not mean profit.

8. Not buying fuel-efficient

Listen, this should be in your top 3 reasons for buying the car you do buy unless you are Jeff Bezos of course. Forget fancy and all the other factors we put in our heads, with fuel price increases in proportion to the economy going down, you need to take this seriously.

Now you know what to avoid, you can go out there and buy the best car for your buck.

>>>  Get consistently good buying advice here

Juliet Onyeachonam

Juliet Onyeachonam

Car maintenance

Juliet Onyeachonam is an enthusiastic car nut which is why she has turned that passion into a fantastic job by becoming a car blogger on NaijAuto.com. Juliet's blogs are a wealthy resource for information on car maintenance, driving tips and also how things pertaining to cars work.

Additionally, because of her passion for the entertainment industry, Juliet does not write only hardcore but also entertaining articles about cars.

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