Buying a Car: How To Research a Car


One of your biggest assets when you’re buying a car, is knowing the car and demonstrating that you know what you’re talking about. This helps in differentiating different examples of the cars, determining market value for a car, and provides evidence for negotiation. We’re here to help you research a car you want to buy.

Research is the easiest and best way to save money when buying a car.

What are the Research Basics? How do I Research a Car?

You need to turn to everyone’s favourite search engine – Google. Start by searching up the make, model, year and engine specifications for a car. This will return a bunch of results.

This will tell you some important information.

  • Things like what the different trim levels were and where your potential car ranks in that list. If it’s a base trim, then it shouldn’t be asking the luxury trim prices for the same car.
  • What are the prices for some of the similar cars to the one you’re looking at. Understand how much the market is asking for these cars. This helps you budget, helps you form an offer, and helps you haggle.
  • You can use car background checks to see the Warrant history as well as the registration details over the years.
  • Another key search term to use is ” *make – model – year* common problems”. This is one of the best, it’s really just fantastic. These results will tell you all sorts of problems that people have had (and had to pay to have fixed) and you can dodge all of them simply by not buying the car. At the very least, you can use it to negotiate, and to budget for maintenance costs.
  • Another interesting term to look up, if you’re really into the car, is “*make – model – year* reviews”. The benefits of these are that you’ll get an informed opinion on how the car drives, how usable it is and what it’s like overall compared to others in the segment. This can help inform your opinion before you even look at the car.
  • Have a good scroll through the TradeMe listings of similar cars to figure out what other cars are priced at. This will fill you in on what different trim levels, kilometers travelled and other features, are worth to other buyers. These other listings are also great for negotiation, as you can quote the basis that made you come to your decision.

Once you start going down that rabbit hole, you can’t stop. That’s why I know about liquid metal batteries and the future of energy infrastructure, when I should’ve been studying.

Other things to research are details pertaining to the car itself, does it owe money, are there any outstanding charges, and what’s the ownership history like? All of these can help tell the story of the car – and the more you know, the less you’ll find out.

If you’d like some other things to read while you’re procrastinating, or you just like the way we write, you can check out more of our informative Buying and Selling pointers here.