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How to buy a used car in Germany: Stay flexible with the model and compare prices intensively!

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With the current state of the economy, purchasing a brand-new vehicle does not appear to be a practical option for most individuals. Instead, many people are opting to buy a used car since the used automobile market in Germany has a lot of great offers.

As soon as a new car turns the first lap on the road, it is worth less than when it was bought. After just three years, petrol, diesel and electric cars are selling on average only about half the list price. For many car buyers, depreciation is a good reason to take a used one instead of a new one. However, there are a few points to consider when you want to buy a used car:

Why isn’t it all about the loss of value?

The statistics of the Federal Motor Transport Authority show how popular used cars are: While around 7 million cars were bought used in 2018, there were only 3.4 million new registrations. Most of the new cars were not bought by private individuals, but by companies, for example as company cars or for rental. Nevertheless, it is not always cheaper for private individuals to buy a used vehicle.

It is true that the loss in value of cars is actually the highest at the beginning. According to the ADAC used car prices, a Golf 1.6 TDI loses a good 47 percent of its value within two years. After five years it is worth a good 60 percent less. But such invoices are always based on the list price. Dealers often grant substantial discounts on these. On new car portals, models are on average almost 20 percent cheaper.

If you want to get a used one, you sometimes have to compromise on the equipment. If the desired model is only available with expensive extras such as heated seats, sunroof and sports seats, then a new car can be the better choice – especially as an alternative to used cars that are still young. Because you can configure this individually as a customer and only need to pay for extras that you would like to have. You can find out more about this in our guide to buying a new car.

If you are not that picky and ready, for example, to buy a car that has already driven 80,000 kilometers or more, you can buy it well below the original price and thus limit your own loss of value with the car. Then, however, repairs and expensive maintenance work, such as changing the toothed belt in the engine, come faster.


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How do you find the right type of car?

If you are not committed to a specific model, it is advisable to take a look at a current used vehicle report, such as the one from Tüv Süd or GTÜ. There you will find the most reliable and high-quality cars.

If you are actually flexible in the model question, you should also compare the insurance premiums before buying. Because the contributions can vary greatly.

What do you have to consider when you want to buy a used car online?

You can find the largest selection of used vehicles on online portals on the Internet. There are sites that act as classic brokerage portals, for example mobile.de, Autoscout24, Ebay classifieds or wirkaufendeinauto.de. Private and commercial sellers offer cars for sale there, whereby the dealer offers are usually clearly in the majority.

Other sites work like search engines: They bundle the offers of the mediation portals and thus make it possible to search for different providers. These include Autouncle and 12gebendetwagen.de.

You can search specifically for cars on such portals. You can restrict the model, age and equipment and you will see suitable offers in the results list. If you are explicitly looking for private sales or, on the contrary, for dealer offers, you can also stop that.

In an earlier Finanztip test, the used car portals mobile.de, Autoscout24 and Autouncle performed best. Mobile.de and Autoscout24 list 1.1 million and 1.5 million vehicles, respectively, according to their own information. Autouncle compares more than 1,700 online sites across Europe, including the manufacturers’ used car exchanges. For Germany, the portal shows more than 1.2 million results.

Autouncle and Autoscout24 have developed a price evaluation that works like a traffic light. If, in the opinion of the portals, the offer is either very cheap, fair or too expensive, markings from green to red indicate a rating. These price evaluations give you an initial orientation.

But you shouldn’t rely entirely on it. Because the portals only compare the offer with the current market price. The individual condition of the car is not included in this rating, nor are any expensive special equipment or modifications. In any case, pay attention to defects and the equipment in the description of the offers and later during the viewing.

This is how you determine a reasonable price

Are you someone who is not very knowledgeable about cars? Are you worried about being ripped off when buying a used car? In contrast, only the support of a knowledgeable acquaintance helps – or extensive research.

You can get a first impression of which prices are called for a certain model and its condition on the online portals. The used car magazine of the magazine “Auto, Motor und Sport” is also very helpful for a quick overview of the market.

But there are other ways to have a car evaluated. Deutsche Automobil Treuhand (DAT) offers an online evaluation tool for free. However, these evaluations are only based on the most important key data of the car. The exact condition of the respective vehicle cannot be recorded in this way.

This is different with the Dekra seal for used cars. There the respective car is technically checked. Dekra also offers a valuation. Both examinations cost from around 125 euros each. Sellers use and pay for both services more often. In some cases, however, the prospective buyer and seller share the costs. If you want a Dekra report, negotiate with the seller.

Testing and test drive essential

As soon as a purchase candidate has been determined, a test drive including a thorough examination of the car is mandatory. If you are not a car expert yourself, take an expert guide with you. Dekra and the ADAC also offer checklists on what to look out for. For example, examine the body for paint damage or rust. Check in the engine compartment whether the lines are tight and watch out for unusual noises while driving. You should also take a close look at the service booklet and TÜV reports.

You can use small defects in the car that are acceptable to you when negotiating the purchase price. The prices quoted on the net are not set in stone.

Manipulated speedometers

Used cars are offered again and again, the speedometer of which has been turned back mechanically or electronically. This “service” is offered on the Internet for little money; fraudulent sellers like to use them. You can protect yourself against this: Compare the entries in the service booklet and the general inspection with the corresponding data and mileage for plausibility.

The wear and general condition of the car should also match the odometer reading. If in doubt, the mileage can often be read from the engine control unit.

What are the advantages of buying from a car dealer?

According to an evaluation by the ADAC over several years, used cars from private customers are on average around 8 percent cheaper than cars from dealers. But there is more security with the professional: Unlike a private seller, the dealer has to be liable for material defects. That is why dealers in particular who have the Kfz-Meisterschild as a guild company carry out a thorough inspection of cars before they offer the cars for sale.

It is a legal requirement that commercial sellers are liable for material defects for two years. This period can be shortened to one year in the sales contract. You shouldn’t get into that.

Material defects are defects that the car already had when it was handed over. In the first six months, the burden of proof lies with the seller. For example, if the catalytic converter is defective, the dealer must prove that this was not the case when the car was handed over.

For damage that is not covered by liability for material defects, many dealers also offer a used vehicle guarantee. Often it is already included in the purchase price. The scope of this guarantee is very different. Pay attention to restrictions and exclusion criteria in the contract. Especially if the guarantee costs an extra charge, you have to weigh up whether it is worth it.

If you have trouble buying a car, good legal protection insurance can help.

How does buying a used car work?

Once you have decided on a car and negotiated the best price, it goes to the sales contract. Most traders use standard contracts.

It is imperative that the seller fill out the contract in full. Defects in the vehicle must be recorded in a list of defects in the contract. The absence of accidents must also be confirmed in writing.

How a used car is transferred and registered

If the car is still registered with the seller when it is handed over, you can easily drive the car home and re-register it there. The seller’s insurance applies to the car until you have taken out your own and reported it to the registration office.

If the car is already deregistered, you can pick it up with a trailer. However, it is easier to get a short-term license plate for the transfer. You can get this from your registration office if you present your ID, proof of insurance and registration certificates I and II (vehicle registration document and letter). This license plate is valid for five days and only for test drives and transfers.

For the final registration of the used vehicle, the report on the main inspection (for example by the TÜV), a direct debit authorization for the vehicle tax and the license plates are also required.

You can find out how to find the best and cheapest car insurance for your used car in our guide to car insurance.

Car loans for your used car

In principle, you can also buy used cars on credit. Because the car serves as security, the loan is usually cheaper than a normal installment loan. The portals mobile.de and Autoscout24 refer in their result lists with the individual cars directly to the loan offers on the comparison portal Check24.

However, we recommend that you compare offers on at least two loan portals. It also makes sense to use the Finanztip loan calculator to determine in advance how high the loan amount can be so that you can lift it and what rate you have to pay monthly.

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Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.
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