HomeAutomotiveThe Simple Guide To Choosing a Used Car

The Simple Guide To Choosing a Used Car

Choosing a used car is a scary and complicated process for those who don’t know how to pick the right vehicle for the job. Often, cars get returned back to the dealer due to buyer’s remorse or claiming the car wasn’t practical to drive. I’ve seen a husband stuffing a family of four in a Subaru BRZ, a two-door coupe; and a university student owning a Ford Ranger Raptor, but doesn’t haul cargo nor go offroading. That being said, the latter can still have some practical use down the road.  

Oftentimes prospecting new and used car buyers can get caught up in the chasm between needs and wants when buying a car. In this article, let’s explore the ideas/tools to help you streamline your decision-making process. 

That car can’t be practical when the kids grow up one day.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Source: simplypsychology.org

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory that suggests human needs can be arranged in a pyramid structure. At the base are the most basic physiological needs, such as food, water, and shelter. Then, people move up to safety needs, like security and stability. After that, they seek love and belongingness needs, such as friendships and relationships. Further up the pyramid are self-esteem needs, which include feelings of self-worth and respect. At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization, which is the desire for personal growth, creativity, and fulfillment. According to Maslow, people must satisfy lower-level needs before moving up to higher ones.

This brings us back to our decision-making process when choosing a car. Auto manufacturers and sales representatives are quick to sell the prestigious status of owning a certain brand and model. But how many people are able to maintain that kind of lifestyle? You should check your Debt Service Ratio (DSR) first. 

What Is DSR? 

For prospecting used car buyers, it’s important to calculate your Debt Service Ratio (DSR) to determine how much you can afford to spend on a car. DSR is a method used by banks to calculate your ability to pay the installment for a loan. Here’s an example of how the DSR formula works. 

To calculate your own DSR, you start by calculating your nett income (monthly income subtracting EPF/SOCSO contributions). Then, divide the sum of your monthly commitments + by the installment you are going to pay for e.g. house loan/car loan. Multiply the figure by 100% and that is the ratio of your debt to your income. 

Now one thing to keep in mind: DSR requirements may vary for each bank. Some banks may accept as high as 80% while others as low as 50%. Once you have a rough estimation of your budget based on your DSR, here are a few more additional points to consider towards choosing your used car. 

Read More: 7 Car-Buying Tips to Score the Right Car for You

Understand Your Needs

Consider Make, Model, & Segment First

Now begins the step of choosing your car. There’s no harm in starting with a local selection of used cars as a fresh graduate or a university student. However, if your budget allows more room to wiggle, then you can move up to used Japanese vehicles. It is also important to consider the kind of lifestyle you have before choosing the right make or model. A university student buying a Ranger Raptor as their first car is peculiar but there’s nothing wrong with that; but what is the point if the owner isn’t going to haul cargo or go offroading? Conversely, a family husband buying a sports car for family use is impractical. 

Here’s a recommended guideline from us that can streamline the decision-making process of choosing a used car – If you’re a fresh graduate or student, pick a small, economy car. A pickup truck or an MPV for heavy-duty work, and a hot-hatch or a sports car if you’re a thrill seeker who can afford it. Lastly, a luxury car should only be considered if you have excess money to spend.

Read More: Why Aren’t Station Wagons Popular in Malaysia?

Then, the Price & Budget According to Specs

Often, many car owners experience buyer’s remorse one month after owning the car. There are many reasons this could happen, notably, a lack of proper research into the vehicle. Don’t bite more than you can chew, as our elders would say. That’s why car loans remain one of the biggest causes of bankruptcies in Malaysia. 

Sometimes we let our inner child cloud our judgment when making a big purchase. We might think if we push our budget just a little bit more, we can afford something better. The hubris of this kind of purchase is going to bite you back when it comes to servicing your car and buying replacement parts, like when you buy a used Mercedes-Benz in Malaysia without being able to afford it. 

Some variants can be more expensive or cheaper than others due to more features added to the vehicle. Manual transmission variants, although rare, are still the cheapest variant you can buy. For the wallet-conscious consumer who doesn’t mind rowing their own gears, the stick shift model will serve just fine. 

Toyota Supra MK5 can be had with a manual transmission today.
Obligatory #savethemanuals support. 

Read More: Why the Manual Transmission is Dying. 

Addressing Your Wants 

A Sporty Car for a Not-So Sporty Lifestyle

Getting the latest hot-hatch or sports car on the market may sound like a dream. But what happens when you start a family and the commitments pile up? Choosing a car in the right segment is going to save you a huge hassle in the long run. Ask yourself this when going shopping for a car – how will this vehicle be practical for me in the next six months to five years? Shelving an old interest is a heavy-hearted decision but you can always go back to it when things get better. Remember, a car is always a depreciating asset to own.

If you still want something fun to get around with while being a practical grocery-getter, consider getting a hatchback, station wagon or a sedan. These segments serve as the middle ground between practical and fun to drive. As a petrolhead myself, I would advise you to get a sports car or a vanity vehicle for the weekends when you have the money to burn after you’ve sufficiently increased your income. 

Look Into Aftermarket Support & Reliability 

Local cars are generally a safe bet. But, if you’re looking into used cars, it’s best to dig through a model’s history first. If you recall, the Proton X50 and X70 owners had a dry spell of spare parts in Malaysia during the COVID lockdowns in China. One tip when choosing a used car is to research the availability of spare parts for said vehicle before buying. 

First-Gen Toyota Mark X
Second-gen Lexus IS250

These two cars share the same engine and transmission, thus sourcing parts is easier for maintenance.

Conversely, aftermarket parts support for used Continental cars, especially the newer models is still widely available although expensive to purchase. Again, it’s important to take your budget into account to maintain the car. 

Lastly, How Will This Purchase Affect People around Me?

Unless you’re buying a car just for yourself, it’s also important to consider who else might be using your car. If I buy a manual sports car, will anyone in my family know how to drive one? What about an SUV with high ground clearance? Can my aging parents climb in easily? Don’t let your desires for a five-minute glory cloud your judgment. 

To conclude, don’t be quick to make reckless decisions that can cost you a fortune. Take your time to consider your options, finances, and situation. Then, start researching which car serves as the middle ground to suit your requirements. Do you strictly want a workhorse, a family car, or a fun ride? Start from there, and work your way till you find your match made in heaven. 

Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a used car, start browsing for your used car via our official CARSOME app! We have a wide selection of quality vehicles in various segments and our app also allows you to filter cars according to your budget. Download our CARSOME app for Android and Apple here!


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