How to Buy a Used SUV

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How to Buy a Used SUV

A sport utility vehicle (SUV) is a robust option. These cars are available in two-wheel or four-wheel drive, for on or off-road use. They offer plenty of passenger seating and storage space. SUVs are often used to tow boats or caravans as they have more power than standard saloons.

When buying a used SUV, several factors should be considered. As a first step, evaluate whether this is the right vehicle for the user's needs, taking engine capacity and running costs into account. Doing adequate research about the SUVs available for sale ensures that buyers are aware of potential problems and what to look for when evaluating the vehicles on offer. The secret to buying a used car lies in knowing how to evaluate what is available. Learn what to look for by asking the seller questions and test driving the vehicle. Used SUVs are available from used car dealers, private sellers, and online from eBay.

Overview of Buying Used SUVs

While a used SUV is not right for everyone, it can be invaluable in certain situations. Larger SUVs tend to use a lot of fuel and are not particularly environmentally friendly. If the vehicle will be used only in urban areas and not to tow anything, consider buying a lightweight SUV, a people carrier, or a roomy saloon. SUVs are more practical for those that drive on dirt roads or off road, especially when the car has four-wheel drive. Similarly, buyers that often tow boats or caravans may find the extra power of an SUV makes up for the higher running costs. Consider whether the long-term cost of the vehicle is worthwhile and whether the benefits gained offset these costs.

Research Used SUVs

Before buying a used SUV, buyers should perform adequate research to ensure that they are aware of what to expect from particular makes, models, and years. For example, the table below lists five popular types of used SUVs with common issues experienced by owners.


Common Problems


High brake disc and pad usage

Bushes, ball joints, and front outer CV joint boots need to be replaced often

Some problems with non-engine electronics

Land Rover Freelander

Rear suspension problems: 1997 to 2003

Front seat problems: 1997 to 2003

Passenger airbag does not deploy fully on cars made between 2003 and 2006

Volkswagen Tiguan

Interior build quality issues causing rattles and squeaks

Problems with the differential

Audi Quattro

Worn out CV boots and joints

Oil leaks from the transmission output shaft

Rainwater pooling and leakage

Mercedes-Benz ML280

Gearbox issues

Brake pressure sensor failure

It is evident from the table that a range of used SUVs have different problems. Research the specific make, model, and year and check for common issues.

In addition, investigate the current value of different SUVs to ensure that the price paid for the vehicle is close to the market price. Also take the time to find out about the cost and availability of replacement parts, servicing costs, road tax, and insurance. Running costs can add up, turning a bargain into a burden.

Evaluate a Used SUV

Knowing how to evaluate a used SUV is crucial. Buyers that do not know much about cars should ask a friend or family member that is more knowledgeable for help, or consult a mechanic.

Before Inspecting the Vehicle

There are a number of questions to ask the seller before making arrangements to see a used SUV for a physical inspection and test drive. Ask the following about the vehicle's ownership history:

  •     How long has the seller owned it?
  •     Why is he or she selling it?
  •     How many previous owners did it have?

When buying a used SUV, fewer owners are best. To ensure that there are no legal problems in the future, ask the following about documentation:

  •     When was the last MOT test?
  •     Is the SUV taxed?
  •     Does the seller have the logbook?
  •     Does the seller have the documents?
Request the car's make, model, year, registration number, and tax disc details in order to perform additional checks before viewing. Certain SUVs are somewhat top-heavy and inclined to flip or roll. Cars that have been in accidents often develop problems with the chassis or suspension and are best avoided. Ask whether the car has ever been in an accident or if it has ever been reported stolen. Several questions should also be asked about the car's general condition, including:
  •     Is it damaged or does it have any other problems?
  •     Do all of the interior mechanisms work?
  •     What is the mileage?
  •     When was it last serviced?

These questions can be used as a guide to determine the hidden costs of buying a used SUV. If repairs need to be carried out, get an estimate for parts and labour and add this to the buying price.

Finally, ask whether there is any outstanding finance on the car. If there is, the seller does not have the right to sell it as it does not belong to him or her outright. The lender could have the car repossessed or demand payment after it is sold. It is the buyer's responsibility to check that the car is not stolen or subject to outstanding finance.

Perform a Vehicle Check

The best way to learn about a car is to have a vehicle check. A number of garages perform this service for a fee. However, the fee is well worth it for the additional peace of mind. This type of check reveals details such as whether the car has ever been stolen or in an accident. Also make use of the free tool on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing (DVLA) website. This can be used to confirm details such as the car's vehicle identification number (VIN), whether the registration number matches the make and model, and when the road tax expires.

Inspect a Used SUV

If the buyer is happy with what he or she has learned during the preliminary evaluation, then a vehicle inspection and test drive should be arranged. Ask the seller to have the documentation relating to the SUV on hand and ensure that the person performing the test drive has adequate insurance to drive the car. The physical inspection should cover the car's exterior, interior, and engine. Remember to check any common faults highlighted when researching the make and model.

Check the Exterior of a Used SUV

Check the exterior for signs that the SUV has been in an accident. The paint finish should be the same all over the body. Changes or deviations could indicate that the car has been repaired and a section has been resprayed. If the SUV had been used off road, check for scratches and nicks in the paint. If these are particularly severe, a respray may be necessary. The gaps between the body panels should be the same size and the doors should open smoothly. Check for rust, especially if the vehicle has been exposed to salty air. Paint that bubbles is usually a sign of corrosion.

Pay special attention to areas where water tends to pool and lie, as well as the window frames and wheel arches. Check the tyres, taking note of the tread depth and the wear pattern. Uneven wear can be an indication of damage to the suspension after an accident or tracking alignment faults.

Check the Interior of a Used SUV

Check the general condition of the interior, including the roof and upholstery, for signs of wear and tear. This may also give a buyer an indication of whether the previous owner took good care of the vehicle. Take note of the mileage on the odometer and compare it to the general condition of the vehicle. If the interior, especially the gearstick knob, pedals, and driver's seat, shows heavy signs of wear, but the odometer reading is low, then the car may have been clocked. This means that the odometer was tampered with in order to make it seem as though the car has lower mileage. Mileage can generally be confirmed through service and MOT records.

Look at the steering column and ignition. Signs of damage could be an indication that the SUV was stolen. Check that all of the seat belts are working and undamaged. Finally, take a look at all of the interior features, such as the air conditioning, window mechanisms, sunroof, and bonnet release levers. Check whether all of the lights, including the indicators are working. Lift the windscreen wipers into the up position and switch them on to check whether they are functioning; leaving them down when performing this check could scratch the windscreen.

Check the Engine of a Used SUV

A number of checks should be carried out on the engine of the SUV. Firstly, make sure the VIN has not been tampered with and matches the logbook number. Check for fluid leaks and look at coolant and brake fluid levels. Take out the oil dipstick, wipe it, put it back, and check the oil level and the condition of the oil. If the oil is dirty or contains debris, an oil change is probably required and the seller may not have taken very good care of the vehicle. It could also indicate an underlying problem.

Check the top of the engine and under the oil cap for a thick, white, mayonnaise-like substance. If this is present, the head gasket may fail. Check whether the battery terminals and connectors are in good condition and without signs of corrosion.

Test Drive a Used SUV

Before test driving the vehicle, show the seller proof that the driver is insured. Turn the steering wheel from one lock position to the other. There should be no screeching or knocking noises and the same amount of effort should be required to turn it throughout. It is best to arrange with the owner to drive the car while it is cold as this reveals problems with starting. Once the engine is running, check for excessive exhaust smoke and whether the car is emitting blue or black smoke. This could be an indication of an oil leak or other engine problems.

While driving, test the handbrake and the brakes. The handbrake should not allow the car to creep forward if the clutch is let out a little while the car is in first gear. When the brakes are pressed the SUV should not pull to the left or right. Listen for noises from the engine or body. Run through all of the gears; transitions should be smooth and unproblematic. Drive the car for at least 15 minutes to get a good idea of its condition.

If looking at a used four-wheel drive SUV, pull over to the side of the road and check the operating manual or ask the seller for directions on engaging this feature. Drive the SUV in this mode for a short distance and listen for clunks, clangs, and other disturbing sounds. If the seller feels comfortable and if the terrain allows, find a small off-road hill and drive up it. This may not always be possible, but is the best indication of whether this function is in working order. Ensure that four-wheel drive engages and disengages smoothly.

Buying a Used SUV on eBay

Finding the perfect used SUV for you is easy with eBay. Simply type a phrase, such as "used 4x4 SUV", into the search field, which can be accessed from every page, to see the listings available from eBay sellers. Narrow your search by choosing the most suitable category and item features.

Before Buying on eBay

Before buying on eBay, take a moment to evaluate the item and the seller. Click on an individual listing to view the item listing page where you can find information such as the full item description, images of the SUV, buying, and payment options, and the seller's feedback information. If you have any questions for the seller, use the "Ask a question" link to get in touch. Choose a local seller to make viewing and test driving easier.

Once you have found the perfect used SUV, take a moment to meet the seller. Click on the number next to his or her username to view his or her seller feedback and see what others buyers have to say about the products bought and customer service received during previous transactions.


Buying a used SUV is a great way to save money. Find out about the cost of road tax and insurance and other running costs before deciding on this type of vehicle. It may be more cost-effective to buy a different type of car if it will be used only in an urban setting. Research the models available, paying close attention to common problems with specific makes, models, and years.

Ask the seller for more details before viewing the car. All the documentation should be in order and in the possession of the seller. Only the person listed on the registration document has the right to sell the car and only if no finance is outstanding on it. Perform a vehicle check to ensure that the car is as described.

Carefully check the interior, exterior, and engine of the car. Ask a friend or family member for help, or if necessary, have a qualified and reputable mechanic assess the used SUV before making a purchase. Never buy a car without taking it for a test drive. Ensure that the driver that tests the car has insurance that offers adequate cover. eBay is the perfect place to find a used SUV at a competitive price, with scores of listings from verifiable sellers.

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