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About used car | How to buy | What to look for

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Rynek samochodów używanych jest bardzo bogaty i urozmaicony. Osoby, które chcą posiadać własne „cztery kółka” , mogą to marzenie urzeczywistnić w cenie już kilku tysięcy złotych. Oczywiście, im większe mamy oczekiwania wobec samochodu, tym wyższa będzie jego cena. Niestety, ten kto kiedykolwiek kupował samochód „z drugiej ręki”, ten wie że nie jest to proste zadanie. Z olbrzymiej liczby samochodów sprowadzanych z zagranicy, pojazdów po naprawach blacharsko-lakierniczych oraz aut z nieudokumentowaną historią, bardzo trudno wybrać te, których stan techniczny i wygląd będzie nam odpowiadał.

pointerAby Państwu ułatwić to zadanie, powstał ten właśnie poradnik. Można w nim znaleźć całą maskę wskazówek, przydatnych podczas zakupu samochodu używanego. Korzystając z naszej wiedzy i doświadczenia, każdy może wcielić się w rolę eksperta motoryzacyjnego i zdobyć więcej informacji, na temat interesującego egzemplarza samochodu. „Czytanie samochodu” przypomina czytanie książki, o ile potrafimy dostrzegać i odpowiednio interpretować poszczególne sygnały. Stan lakieru, wygląd silnika, wnętrze samochodu – każde z tych miejsc dostarcza wskazówek dotyczących aktualnego stanu, szacowanego przebiegu oraz tego, jak samochód był traktowany przez poprzednich właścicieli.

pointerGdzie kupować samochód używany, na jakie elementy zwracać uwagę, co sprawia, że należy zachować podejrzliwość wobec sprzedawcy i jego samochodu, a także jakich narzędzi używać, aby nabrać jeszcze większej pewności, że ten egzemplarz jest warty zakupu lub zdecydowanie trzeba się od niego trzymać z daleka? Odpowiedzi na te i inne pytania znajdują się na tej stronie, do której lektury gorąco zapraszamy!

pointerKupno używanego samochodu to zadanie, które wymaga cierpliwości, wiedzy i odrobiny szczęścia. Pomimo, że niekiedy uda się znaleźć dobry samochód używany w kilka godzin, to częściej trzeba na to poświęcić nawet kilka tygodni, a czasem i miesięcy. Im rzadszy model samochodu i większe nasze oczekiwania, w tym większą cierpliwość należy się uzbroić. Warto jednak zapamiętać pewną rzecz – emocje są złym doradcą przy zakupie samochodu używanego. Chłodna kalkulacja, ograniczone zaufanie do sprzedawcy, a także wnikliwe sprawdzenie pojazdu – to najlepsza na znalezienie auta używanego, z którego będą Państwo zadowoleni.

GUIDE - Step by Step

A detailed description of the car which you should be carefull during buying

01 / Bodywork

The car body is the external part of the car, consisting of a metal plating, doors and roof. Bodywork of modern cars is made from high-quality galvanized corrosion-resistant steel sheets. However, this applies only to factory-installed components, which have not been damaged. Each collision and following it body or paint repair, can sooner or later result in rusty spots.

How to check the bodywork of a used car?

Dents, scratches, and other damage - carefully examine every element of the vehicle’s body. On the cars which have been regularly exploited it is natural to find different kinds of day-to-day damage. Dents on the door, scratches, delicate abrasions. Most often they result from carelessness of other drivers parking too close in tight parking bays.

PAINTWORK – after several years of use, the original car paint may become slightly faded, or stained, and look as if it needed polishing. If this condition is visible on the entire body of the car and you cannot see the difference in the shade of the elements, the probability that the body has been repainted is small. On the other hand, shiny paint on an old car which looks as if the car has just left the factory can be suspicions, as it may have been polished or varnished. The latter is the most common consequence of repairs and re-painting the car after an accident or collision.

WINDOWS – the car’s windows should be undamaged, with no visible cracks. On each window there is also a production date. Theoretically, each window should have the same date and the same manufacturer. In practice, finding a window with a different date may, but may not necessarily indicate an accident history of the vehicle. Replacing windows, especially the windscreen may be due to a damage done to it by a stone from under the tyres of another vehicle. The side windows can also be replaced as a result of acts of vandalism or breaking into the vehicle.

SGAPS – all car body parts, such as the bonnet, tailgate, doors, fenders, etc. should be accurately fitted, and gaps between them should be equal on the entire length. Uneven gaps of different thicknesses are evidence of an accident history of the car and unprofessionally done repairs.

Boot (Trunk) – taking a look into the boot, don’t forget to raise the cover, and even remove the spare wheel. Under that you will see the boot floor, which should be even and bear no traces of repair. However, if you notice any traces of welding, grinding, different colour of paint, it proves the car has had its back crashed and has undergone repairs.

Bonnet (hood) – lifting the bonnet, in the engine compartment you can see stringers. These are the main elements of the car structure, responsible for the safety of the car. The stringers are durable steel beams, which absorb the impact of the front crash. If they are bent, or undulating or have uneven paintwork or marks of corrosion, it indicates a front crash and its straightening on a frame. The level of safety of such a car is then lower.

doors – which will be more convenient? A three- or five-door car? If you plan to travel with passengers in the back seats, it is definitely more comfortable in a five-door car. However, when only occasionally transporting passengers, you should not treat the number of doors as the determining factor in choosing the type of car.

Body – hatchback, sedan, wagon, or perhaps SUV? Which type of body is the most convenient to use? Here individual preferences and expectations of the buyer will be decisive. However, when choosing the type and size of the body, it is advisable to fall back on individual experience, needs, expected level of safety, as well as the size of a garage or parking space we have at our disposal, and ultimately what the car to be purchased is going to be used for.

02 / Chassis

Chassis of the car is an element of its structure, consisting of the floor board. One project of the floor board can be used for the production of various models of different car makes. Its lower part, or chassis, can be a source of valuable information about the state of the car and its past. To be able to have a close look at the chassis, take advantage of a lifting column, inspection pit, or use a mirror on an arm. For your convenience you should also use a flashlight with a strong beam of light to illuminate all corners of the chassis.

How to check a used car’s chassis?

rust – it is the most common problem of a car chassis, not only of those older than 5 years, but also those which have undergone after-collision repairs. Places where the chassis has been repaired, e.g. by welding in a new element, lose their original anti-corrosion protection. These places will be attacked by rust, which can possibly lead to the floor perforation. Corrosion can also be the problem of the chassis in vehicles with no history of accidents. Then it is the result of a poor anti-corrosion protection applied by the manufacturer. Being interested in a particular model of a car, you should look online for information about whether or not this series is known to have problems with rust.

It should be remembered, though, that traces of rust on the chassis’s surface are a natural consequence of using the car in the European climatic conditions. However, if you decide to buy such a car, then it is worth to invest in cleaning, rust-coating and preservation of the chassis.

Thresholds – The car’s thresholds are very susceptible to damage. High curbs, speed bumps, or side collision with another car can be but a few examples of possible threat to them. Dented and corroded thresholds indicate that the car must have been in one of these situations. Technology of repair of damaged thresholds involves filling the dents with putty and re-painting. The low-quality workshops often use foam for windows to fill thresholds in order to increase their rigidity before the repair. When examining thresholds, look at them carefully for any irregularities in the paintwork, different shades, or possible welds. Thresholds which have been "repaired" in this way surely will soon require further intervention, and at the same time do not reflect well on the history of the car.

Exhaust system – Scrutinizing the chassis, it is very easy to assess the state of the exhaust system. Pipes, muffler, clamps, clips, collector - these parts can corrode. However, if you notice any perforation, it will mean the need to replace these items with new ones. However, this is a natural process of normal material wear and tear which does not necessarily have anything to do with a possibility of the car having been crashed.

03 / Mechanics

Mechanics of a car is a very broad term, encompassing several different systems and this applies to every car. Their proper operation influence the safety of passengers, traveling comfort and steering precision. The most important mechanical systems, which should be checked when buying a used car are:

Suspension – it is one of the most important systems in the car. Its role is to suppress shocks when driving on uneven roads and transfer the weight of the car onto wheels. Over time, suspension of the car can lose its effectiveness and will require repair. This applies in particular to springs, shock absorbers, as well as suspension arms. Driving on rough or potholed roads, frequent climbing high curbs, and finally unprofessional repairs with a low-quality spare parts, may result in the suspension not as effective as it should be. To check this, press the body right above the wheels. The vehicle should immediately return to its original position. If instead, the car starts to swing up and down or side to side, it indicates exhaustion of the suspension.

Steering system – another of the systems, which should be paid much attention to. Its correct operation ensures precise control of the car. The most important way to verify the proper operation of the steering system is checking steering play on the steering wheel. To do this, turn the steering wheel, while another person observes the front wheels. The acceptable play does not exceed 10 degrees, which is approx. 3- finger turn of the steering wheel without changing the position of the wheels. If the steering play is larger than this, you have to be ready for a high cost of repair.

Brake system – brakes in passenger cars are hydraulic. This means that the whole system is filled with a hygroscopic brake fluid, which must be changed in accordance with the manufacturer is instructions. In cars, regardless of the engine, on the front axle there are always disc brakes mounted. On the other hand, on the rear, in the less powerful engines there are drum brakes, and in the more powerful ones- disc brakes. Checking the brakes involves inspecting the thickness of the lining on the brake pads, condition of brake discs and drums. You should also check the hand brake, including the cable tension, its smooth pulling up and release, as well as its strength. For this purpose it is advisable to park the car on a slope and carefully check if the pulled-up brake holds the vehicle in place.

Fuel system – buying a car with LPG, it is important to check its performance, and in particular the correct switching from petrol to LPG. In modern sequential installations, switching occurs automatically and it is controlled by computer. It occurs after the refrigerant fluid reaches the appropriate temperature. During the summer, switching to LPG is faster, while in winter, it requires more time. Switching should be done quite smoothly only with small, barely noticeable jerks. However, if anything arouses our suspicion in the operation of LPG, e.g. the smell of gas, strange noises, pulling, no smooth switching, there may be a need to adjust the installation or replacement of individual elements, e.g. the regulator. In vehicles with LPG you should also check the validity of the gas cylinder, which is 10 years.

04 / Interior

The interior of the car and its equipment plays a very important role for the driver and the passengers. Clean, tidy interior means mainly undamaged upholstery, no odors, complete and operational equipment. Certain types of defects and deficiencies may indicate non-compliance of the actual condition of the car with what its seller says.

Worn seat upholstery – upholstery of car seats is made of a very durable material, resistant to damage. Nevertheless, it has its limited lifetime. You can shorten it by driving in dirty work clothes and frequent getting on and out of the car. Damaged and dirty seat upholstery may indicate a higher mileage than declared, and that the vehicle was used as a company car.

Worn-up steering wheel – the same as above, it may indicate e.g. a higher mileage than declared, etc.

Incomplete equipment – lack of original keys, broken ventilation grille panels, faulty radio, broken interior lighting, no cigarette lighter, missing handles. Each of these defects indicates the long life of the vehicle and a lack of respect from the previous owners. It could also be evidence that the car has been assembled from parts and the owner failed to complete its entire equipment.

The set of indicators – in a running car no indicators in orange or red should go on (with the exception of the fuel reserve and information about the activated hand brake). Glowing check engine lights, ABS and others in orange or red colours, indicate an error in the operation of the systems. If this is the case, it will be necessary to computer diagnose the failure, which will require checking the car with the computer diagnostic software.

05 / Under the hood

Modern engines are not able to tell us much about the car. Hidden under plastic covers, they prevent any access to the engine block, reducing visibility of other elements. Nevertheless, even a quick look at the state of the engine compartment, can give us a general picture of the condition of the car and whether the owner took a good care of it.

The appearance of the engine compartment – dusty interior of the engine compartment is perfectly OK. Unlike furniture in the living room, the engine does not require regular removal of dust. Just the opposite, the engine that looks as if it has been freshly washed is even more suspicious, as it may indicate a desire to hide some leaks.

Leaks – whether the engine is tight or not, is relatively easy to see, looking at the ground under the car, bending down and looking at the bottom from under the engine and gearbox. In many models, though, dampness visible on these elements is quite natural. However, if you notice any oil dripping from the engine or gearbox, this is definitely a cause for concern and suspicion.

Colour of fumes – fumes from the engine which works properly are colourless. In the initial stage of engine operation after its start-up, when it has not yet reached the correct temperature, they can be white, due to the presence of water in the exhaust system. The reason for concern is blue exhaust fumes. This indicates that in addition to the fuel the engine burns oil.

Fluids – to work properly the car needs fluids. The most important is, of course, the motor oil, cooling fluid and brake fluid. Checking their correct levels is simple and should be done when the car is parked on an even area, about 5 minutes after the engine has been switched off. Too low oil and coolant levels do not only show a lack of attention on the owner’s side, but also a possible problem with the motor.

Engine performance – buying a used car, you should check the operation of the cold engine. Often, however, it happens that the owner lets us see the car in which the engine is already warmed up, so its performance is smooth. Any irregularities in the operation of the engine, e.g. difficulty in starting, uneven work or strange noises appear in the initial phase of its work, when a cold engine "grabs the temperature."

Battery – electricity bank in any car. When buying a car, check carefully the year in which the battery was produced. Usually, pre-assembled batteries last for approx. 6-7 years of operation. Those available in stores -- approximately 4 years. If the battery reaches that age, you will have to start thinking about a new one. This may be one of the arguments to demand from the seller a reduction in the price.

Engine – the type of engine decides how pleasant the driving is. What to choose: classic and fairly reliable aspirated petrol engine, or maybe supercharged diesel engine? Much depends on the way in which we intend to use the vehicle. Certainly, you should consider the power that will be sufficient to comfortably move around in the car, providing an adequate acceleration. This is particularly important during long journeys on motorways. You should know that petrol engines are easier and cheaper to repair, and some models perfectly cooperate with LPG systems, allowing you to reduce operating costs. On the other hand, the advantage of diesel engines is their economical fuel consumption, especially when driving on long routes. Among them, the choice can be between naturally aspirated diesel engines, regarded as “immortal”, and, providing a great fun to drive-- turbine engines. The turbine is in turn a part requiring special care from the driver. Its damage may mean a repair, the cost of which may amount to several thousand PLN.

06 / Others

Each car is composed of tens of thousands of parts, each of them dependent on one another. Working together, they are responsible for the performance of the car, its usefulness and safety. Many of these parts may be more or less worn, and the level of wearing can help assessment of the technical condition of the vehicle. Among those that should interest the buyers of used cars, are the following:

Tyres – responsible for the adhesion of the car to the road, the tyres should have a tread of not less than 3 mm and should not be older than 5 years. Tyres on the same axle should have the same tread pattern. Poor condition of the tyres is defined by a torn tread, visible cracks and bulges, as well as the age. The date of production of tyres is always embossed on their side in the AABB format, where the AA is the week of manufacturing and the BB -- last two digits of the year.

Air-conditioning – one of the basic expectations of motorists buying a used car. Of course, working and efficient air conditioning. It is easy to be checked by testing it while the engine is running. Well-functioning air-conditioning, after a minute or two should blow the cold air, and at the same time it should work relatively quietly. Noisy air conditioning can be the sign of the impending end of the compressor. In turn, the lack of efficient cooling can be caused by low-pressure of the coolant. This, in turn, may indicate leaks in the system. You should also check the smell that comes out of the ventilation ducts. The smell of mold testifies to the fact that the air conditioning has not undergone the anti-fungal treatment for quite a time.

ABS – ABS is one of the most important systems, responsible for the driving safety, preventing the wheel from blocking when braking on a slippery road. To test the proper functioning of the ABS, you should accelerate the car on an empty road and vigorously press the brake pedal. After initiating the ABS, the brake pedal should start vibrating and it is possible to hear rattle of the ABS pump. The system failure may be indicated by the orange light on the instrument panel.

AIRBAG – these are a typical safety feature of almost all cars nowadays. The minimum requirement used by manufacturers there are two front airbags for the driver and the passenger. How to check if the airbags are actually present in the car? There is no 100 percentage effective method. Some indication can be original caps of the airbags, with visible emblems of the manufacturer. Their colour should be consistent with the colour of the rest of the cockpit.

Lighting – the car past accidents may result in differences in the appearance of the headlights and tail lamps. When one lamp cover is more matte than the other, this may indicate that it has been replaced after being damaged. When buying a used car, you should also check that all the lights work properly - from the daytime running lamps to dipped-beam headlamps, main-beam headlamps, fog lamps, indicators, reversing light, parking light, to cabin lighting, boot light and so on.

Additional equipment – towing hook, roof box, child seat, cb-radio. Each of these things provide clues so you can figure out how and for what the car has been used, and whether it was mainly driven around town or on long-distance journeys.

07 / Information for the buyer

The average Pole buys a car once every seven years, spending on it from 20 to 25 thousand PLN. New cars’ prices are still too high for most buyers to be able to afford to purchase a brand new car from the dealer. Sellers of used cars -- both dealers and private people, are confronted with a strong competition on the secondary market. For this reason, they may use various tricks to make their offer look more attractive. Every conscious buyer should be familiar with them and know how to react accordingly.

Mileage – the most commonly used criterion when buying a used car. Unfortunately, is it well known to the sellers, who often tamper with the odometers of the offered cars. The magic limit for the buyers was once 100,000 km. Today, the border is slowly moving toward 150,000 km for a car with a gasoline petrol and 200,000 km for diesels. In fact, the original mileage of cars imported from abroad, usually start from 200,000 km.

How to verify the genuine mileage?
You can e.g. go to the service network of the car make and using the VIN number check the service history of the car in ASO, where at each inspection the mileage is recorded. For some time, the mileage has also been recorded at the technical inspections.

No-accident history – kanother myth and a blank phrase. Car with no-accident history, as the proper definition has it is one, which was not involved in any accidents. An accident can be a traffic incident in which a person has been injured. Does it matter for the buyer whether the car is accident-free or collision-free? No - in both cases the car would have been damaged. Sellers, however, often overuse the definition of accident to advertise the car as accidents-free, hiding the history of collisions the car has participated in.

Documentation – the service book, repair and spare parts bills, description of faults and damages, etc. A reliable documentation of the history of the car can significantly increase its value, making it easier to sell for a higher price. Decisive in this case will be the invoices and not the warranty or service books. Why? For buying empty books and filling them with stamps and entries no longer is a problem. Original invoices for repair and service, with different date, are, however, reliable evidence that the owner took a proper care of the car.

Seller – the impression made by the seller will often affect the final decision to purchase the car. When buying a used car, you want it to come from a reliable and credible source -- such an impression should also be given by its former owner. If in a conversation, the seller’s behavior and appearance inspires our confidence, it is a good signal, reflecting well on the car.

Test drive – buying a car without a test drive is very risky and we do not recommend this method of making a deal. Firstly, because you do not know whether the ergonomics and how the car drives will suit you. Secondly, because during the test drive you notice any irregularities in the operation of the car. Weak engine, noisy engine, pulling to the side, poor brakes, imprecise gearbox, clutch working hard - this is only a few from the possible long list of things that you notice when you perform the test drive.

Garaged or kept in the open air – the cars which are kept in garages usually have their body in a better condition than those that are parked in the open air. Buying a used car which was garaged you get a bigger chance that its body will be better preserved than those of cars that are parked in open-air car parks.

Paint coating thickness gauge – a device worth investing in. Paint thickness gauge allows you to check the thickness of the paint coating on the car body. Having the results of the test, you can determine whether the car has the original paint, or maybe it has been re-painted -- the whole of it or some elements - following dent repairs. Gauges are available for sale in many electronic models, and the price starts from 100 PLN.

Price – What is the fair price for a second-hand car? As much as someone will be willing to pay for it. The seller has the full right to demand a high price for the car, while you—the buyer- can try to negotiate the price. When the financial expectations of the seller and the amount the buyer is willing to pay meet, the contract is signed.

What arguments can be used to negotiate the price? The technical condition of the vehicle, the need for repairs, incoming expiry of the insurance, the need to have the car serviced, the lack of winter tyres, and so on and such like. Only your--the buyer’s-- haggling talent decides how much you will be able to take down the initial price.

What arguments can be used to negotiate the price? The technical condition of the vehicle, the need for repairs, incoming expiry of the insurance, the need to have the car serviced, the lack of winter tyres, and so on and such like. Only your--the buyer’s-- haggling talent decides how much you will be able to take down the initial price.

Domestic or imported – this question slowly loses its meaning, as gradually the once visible differences in equipment and features between cars bought from the dealer, and second-hand ones are disappearing. Visible differences may relate to a better equipped car from abroad, but also a higher mileage (which may lead to tampering with odometers). The service history of used cars bought from dealers are easy to check and they usually have lower mileage. Sadly, their equipment is usually also somewhat poorer.

A set of documents and keys – buying a used car, you should get a set of keys (usually 2 pieces), the code card, if there is one, the key to lock the gearbox, possibly the code card to the cd-player, registration document, a vehicle card, insurance, as well as a set of service documents, like the warranty book or owner is manual. Cars with LPG should also have the approval.

What else should I check?

If you want to be assured that the car you are interested in has been checked point by point, use our checklist. It contains more than 100 different items to check. Using this prompt, you will be assured that no important element of the car escaped your attention, and no defects remained unnoticed.

The checklist for buying a used car and other useful documents can be found in the section to download.

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