Your 2020 Guide to Buying a Used Car in UAE

Are you thinking of buying a pre-owned car through online car listings like Dubizzle, YallaMotor or Automall? Follow these simple steps to make sure there are no bad surprises coming your way.
Reading time: 6 min
Living in the UAE comes with a bunch of advantages. And it shows on its roads, too. Owning a status-symbol vehicle is therefore part of getting to fit in.
If you ever considered buying a new high-end car, you know that their price tag tend to leave people with a big gasp. No wonder then why a study by Dubizzle Motors confirmed that more than 90 % of poll respondents would rather buy a used car over a new one.
But with the number of classifieds on websites like Dubizzle or YallaMotors reaching tens of thousands of daily listings, how can you be sure you’ll make the right choice? What are the things you should consider when buying a pre-owned car in the UAE?
We made it simple for you. Follow these six simple steps, and you can be sure you won’t be left with unpleasant surprises.
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1. Satisfy your need, not your greed
Take a moment and think about what kind of car you really require. Does it have to fit a family of five comfortably for weekend road trips? Or will you be using it mainly for your daily work commute, getting groceries and picking up your kid from school?
Now more than ever, it’s time to give way to reason rather than desire. Don’t go for a Toyota Land Cruiser if what you really need is a Qashqai. Trust us, after a few weeks of finally owning that fantastic set of wheels, the tingles will wear off, and you will be left with a bitter aftertaste of having to pay higher costs for maintenance, insurance, and so on.
3. Hit those listings
We recommend you start with websites like Dubizzle cars, YallaMotors, and Automall UAE. Look at used cars for sale in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or wherever – if you find a good deal it will be worth the extra trip to test-drive it. Dubizzle and YallaMotors are our go-to recommendation: they have thousands of ads available on any given day and are easy to navigate. Once you’re on the website, create your profile: it will allow you to save your favourite used car ads in a separate list, which is going to be a great time-saver later on when you start comparing the shortlisted ones.
We recommend you focus your search on cars that are around 3 - 5 years old: cars with this age can cost as little as 50 % of their initial price, while they still maintain good performance and have acceptable mileage. Don’t look for vehicles older than six years; their prices might lure you into thinking you’re striking a great deal, but you will be facing a lot of additional costs on maintenance in the long run.
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Don’t get discouraged if you see that the car models you spotted have a higher price tag than what you expected. Sellers always try to speculate. In fact, the same study from Dubizzle mentioned above showed that the final price which the buyer and the seller agree on is 13.6% lower than the initial asking price. With the current situation caused by the global pandemic, we estimate that you could negotiate an even better price. So, don’t shy away and add an extra 20% to your price filter.
2. Shortlist the brands
Once you've decided on the type of car you need, make a shortlist of the brands you will be looking at. Keep in mind that buying a car is not a one-time expense. You should consider the running costs, as well. Bear in mind that some brands have higher costs of maintenance or spare parts, but they keep a more stable value over time.
The best way to go around this is to make a quick spreadsheet where you count in:
  • the asking price
  • the mileage you plan to have across the next three years
  • the extra costs you will bear during that time: maintenance, registration, insurance, tyre changes, etc.
Once you start looking at the classifieds, you can do a parallel search where you add in the mileage and the years from your spreadsheet – as if you were reselling the car in a few years' time. Check how much people are asking for.
It's not a super-accurate approach because it doesn’t factor in the price fluctuations, but at least it will give you a rough idea of the overall costs versus how much you will be able to ask for your car when you decide to resell it.
4. The test drive
You narrowed the listings and set up an appointment with the seller to do a test drive. What are the things you should look for during a car inspection?
  • Check for scratches and dents. It's a good idea to bring a torch in order to check the bottom of the car. Look for anything suspicious like leakage, rust or car pieces that are dangling instead of being firmly fixed to the structure.
  • Check the interiors for any scratches.
  • Inspect the condition of the tyres. It’s the most common "hidden expense" that can burn an extra hole in your pocket soon after you've purchased the car.
  • Look for possible odometer tampering. A first sign is suspiciously low mileage for the car's age.
  • Ask the seller for any accident history. Better still, take down the car's VIN number from the mulkiya (the vehicle registration card). There are websites which allow you to search the car's history to double-check what the seller is saying.
  • During the test drive, be considerate: tell the seller in advance when you're about to accelerate or brake sharply. Look for strange noises or weird shudders while hitting the brakes.
  • Check if the car is compatible with GCC specs. Remember, this is a land of extreme heat. Buying a car with US spec might save you 10—15% on the price, but because it was not manufactured for the region, you are risking a lot with important aspects like A/C quality or engine cooling efficiency. Also, most UAE car dealers and repair shops are trained to deal with GCC specs and might charge you more for servicing a non-GCC compatible vehicle.
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If you decided that this is the car you’re going for, now is the time to start negotiating. If the average selling price was around 14% lower than the asking price, you could squeeze out a bit more due to the current economic situation. Just remember: haggling isn’t the same as being rude. Be calm and be reasonable. Show the seller the prices you found when doing a like-for-like search.
You must negotiate the price before moving onto the following step. Read on reading, and you’ll find out why.
5. Get it checked by a pro
Despite your excellent to-do list and your thorough car inspection, you are not a car expert. That's why you should always have it double-checked by an RTA approved centre such as Tasjeel that can do a detailed inspection and provide a certificate for around AED 350. Some hidden issues might come up that you could not have spotted yourself.
But you could also face another scenario: the car gets out with a stellar review. In this case, it will be difficult to start negotiating with the seller now. Hence you should bargain on the price before passing the car inspection.
The upside is that it’s not you who has to pay for the inspection: it’s the seller’s responsibility to provide this certificate when transferring the ownership.
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6. Ready to hand over the money? Not quite yet
Legally speaking, the change of ownership doesn’t happen when you hand over the money, but when the car gets registered in your name. Therefore, it's best if you agree with the seller to hand over the cash during the ownership transfer at one of the licensing offices. In addition to your ID, you will need to show proof of new car insurance, while the seller will have to clear the car of all pending fines and loans prior to the transfer. If you want to find out more about how to register your new car, check out this article.
Wrapping it up
Buying a used car online can be an exciting experience, but it can also be a source of major concern if you don’t plan your budget well, or fail to factor in all the to-dos of the process.
By following our six simple recommendations, you can be sure you’ll make the right investment and that there will be no bad surprises waiting for you under the hood – or in your wallet.