Explained: How to buy a used car in the UAE - and the top 6 tips

Experts advise getting the vehicle inspected professionally before parting with any money

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Buying a used car has traditionally been seen as a more affordable alternative to obtaining a brand new model straight off the production line.

These days, due to a global slowdown in new vehicles being produced as a result of a microchip shortages, prices of used cars are rising.

So, if you are in the market to buy a second-hand car, what should you look out for?

The National talked to industry experts about how to buy a used car and what pitfalls to avoid when choosing your next vehicle.

What are the most popular used cars in the UAE?

Nissan Patrols and Toyota Land Cruisers remain among the most popular vehicles on UAE roads, according to Adam Whitnall, chief executive of car price comparison site Drive Ninja.

“Land Cruisers and Patrols are exceptionally popular because they have a certain status in the UAE,” he said.

“It’s an aspirational thing as they associate a certain lifestyle with owning a Land Cruiser or Patrol.”

The average cost of a brand new 2022 Land Cruiser in the UAE is more than Dh400,000 according to the YallaMotor website.

Normally the minute a car drives off the lot its value plummets.

But classifieds website Dubizzle has 2022 Land Cruiser models advertised for as much as Dh400,000 with up to 300km on the clock.

Elsewhere, a new 2022 Nissan Patrol will set you back an average of Dh275,000, while a quick glance at Dubizzle shows a used 2018 model with 28,000km on the clock for around Dh190,000.

Mr Whitnall said the Mitsubishi Pajero was also popular across the country as it was considered a budget friendly 4x4.

Used Pajeros are selling on Dubizzle for just under Dh90,000.

“Chinese and Korean cars, like the Kia Sportage, are also becoming more popular as they are seen as having low maintenance costs,” he said.

“Another car that is really popular is the Lexus LX570 range, especially among Emiratis who associate it with luxury.”

Dubizzle is selling used LX570s for just under Dh370,000 while the average cost of a brand new model is Dh470,000, according to YallaMotor.

Dubai Police recently acquired the new Toyota Land Cruiser into its world famous fleet of patrol cars. Courtesy Al-Futtaim

What to be aware of when choosing a used car

One of the key factors when buying a used car in the UAE is making sure the vehicle is not coming to the end of its journey.

“It’s very difficult to get fully insured in the UAE for a car that is more than seven years old,” said Mr Whitnall.

“That’s because the climate doesn’t lend itself well to cars lasting much longer than that and insurance companies are hesitant to give full insurance on older cars.”

Mr Whitnall also cautioned against buying an imported car without doing your homework into the vehicle’s history.

“A lot of cars that come here, especially from the US, do so because they were written off, flood-damaged or involved in a crash and were not able to be re-registered for the roads over there,” he said.

“They get fixed up and it’s not always easy to spot that.”

However, the solution is simply a case of asking the seller for the vehicle’s vehicle identification number, he said.

“There are various websites where the buyer can check if the car was involved in an accident by entering the VIN,” said Mr Whitnall.

It is also advisable to get a pre-purchase inspection on any car you are considering buying.

These inspections tend to cost around Dh500 and are available from most used car dealerships and reputable garages.

“An inspection is absolutely critical if you are buying a used car, especially if it’s from a private seller rather than a dealership,” he said.

“Some sellers are less reputable than others, so it’s important to be 'buyer beware'.”

He also said there is usually a gentleman’s agreement that the seller will pick up the cost if anything is found to be wrong with the car during the inspection.

Check the warranty

Buying a car from a dealership tends to come with a guarantee or warranty, but it is important to check the small print, said Mr Whitnall.

“Having a warranty is better than not having one, but you need to be careful about what it covers,” he said.

“There is a common misconception that having a car under warranty means if anything goes wrong it’s going to be covered.

“It is often the case that certain parts will be covered, while others won’t – for example the engine might be covered by the warranty but the electric windows are not.”

He said this was another example of why a pre-purchase inspection was essential, as it would flag up any possible defects before the buyer completes the purchase.

A Japanese car maker Mitsubishi Pajero is presented at the Paris Motor Show 28 September 2006. Over the course of the two-week show, which runs from September 30 to October 15, more than 65 new models are to be given their world premiere in front of more than one million people who attend each year.  AFP PHOTO  JOEL SAGET (Photo by Joël SAGET / AFP)

How to negotiate a price

Haggling is a common part of buying a used car, especially from a private seller, said Mr Whitnall.

“This region is known for having a bartering economy. Sellers are expecting you to negotiate on price and how successful you will be often falls along cultural lines,” he said.

“What doesn’t change though is the need to be polite and respectful.

“Once you start negotiating you can expect to meet somewhere in the middle in terms of price.”

How to pay for a used car

Many used car dealerships offer help with proposing a payment plan, which will be sent to the bank for approval.

Banks will then perform a credit check on the applicant before issuing the loan, which tends to be around 80 per cent of the car’s value, according Neeraj Gupta, chief executive of insurance comparison site Policy Bazaar UAE.

How to get insurance

The cost of insurance in the UAE depends on several factors including the age of the car and the driver, driving history and experience and the vehicle type.

“Don’t be hasty and buy the insurance with the lowest premium, instead look for maximum benefits provided by the insurer,” said Mr Gupta.

“Avoid instantly opting for third-party liability cover, a comprehensive insurance plan is the best option as it offers better protection.

“When you receive your policy, make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully to know what’s covered and what’s not.”

2021 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

How do I register the car in my name?

A change of ownership must be registered in Dubai with the Roads and Transport Authority.

Both the seller and buyer must present documentation to the authority to complete the transfer of ownership, which typically costs between Dh350 and Dh800 depending on the size of the vehicle.

Top 6 tips for buying a used car in the UAE

  • Check the age of the car. Models older than seven years will be difficult or expensive to insure.
  • Do your homework if it is an imported car and check the vehicle has not been in any accidents you are unaware of.
  • Pay for a pre-purchase inspection so that an expert can tell you what is wrong with the car, especially if buying from a private seller.
  • Check the fine print on the warranty, not everything is covered.
  • Negotiate a fair price while remaining courteous and respectful.
  • Opt for the right insurance with a comprehensive plan.

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Updated: July 04, 2021, 7:56 PM