Looking to buy a new car? Use this essential criteria.

Working through these 16 key areas will ensure that you make a quality pre-owned vehicle purchase.

Overall Value for Money

Pre-owned cars that are two years old offer the best value, and models that are selling well as new cars will generally also retain their value as pre-owned.

Look and Feel

Quality and degredation of exterior

Look carefully at the paint finishes and bodywork overall. Look for discolouration on alloy wheels, opening and closing of doors, and check the condition of the lights. Some dealers recondition their vehicles and that’s a big plus.

Look and Feel

Quality and degredation of interior and materials

This is one of the best ways to check the overall quality of a specific vehicle. Look carefully at the quality and wear-and-tear on the carpets, seats, and boot area. Check all the plastic trims and fittings for breakages, and assess the condition of the steering wheel, gear lever, and centre console.

Standard Equipment

Compare the car's standard features to others in the same price bracket to gauge value for money.

Safety Features

Compare the car's safety features to others in the same price bracket to gauge value for money.

Engine Performance

Check the NVH (Noise, vibration and harshness) levels for anything unusual. Is the level of performance as still as new? Look under the bonnet at the engine bay and check for tears or cracks in the wiring and piping.


Test the operation and biting point of the clutch pedal. Check if the gear shift is smooth and precise, and if the gearbox is making any noises or vibrations. The gear shift should have become smoother and lighter since it was new, rather than heavy or notchy when shifting gears.


Check if the brake pedal feels solid under your foot, and that brake retardation is still good. To test it, brake softly as you normally would and then apply a hard brake. There should be no vibrations or noises.

Ride Quality

To test the ride quality, look at the NVH levels overall for anything out of the ordinary. Check the suspension by listening for any knocks or sounds when driving over uneven surfaces. The wheels must be balanced.

Warranty and Maintenance Plans

To gauge what the running costs of the car will be, ask the dealership how much a 5-item small parts package would cost and compare to other cars in the same price range. The package can consist of: air filter, front brake pads, front brake discs, oil service, 4-wheel bearings, and the labour charge.

Out of Maintenance Risk

Parts package for the vehicle

Compare the value of the warranty and maintenance plan to other cars in the same price range. Check how much time is left on them, what they include, and the cost of extending them.

Mechanical Reliability, History and Perception

Ask around to find out the perception of the overall reliability and durability of the vehicle, and consider anything negative you hear. This is very much based on personal perceptions.


Think about whether people aspire to own the vehicle and if it sets a benchmark in its segment.


Determine how well priced the vehicle is in its category.

Dealership Network Strengths for the Specific Vehicle Brand

Check if dealerships for the car brand are widely accessible and that workmanship and service is good.

Vehicle Verification Report

Before assessing a vehicle against any of the above criteria, it’s vital to get a vehicle verification report from TransUnion.