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How to Evaluate a Second-Hand Car Like an Expert 

Discover these 7 easy steps that will help you evaluate a second-hand car and learn all about buying the best cars for your automotive business.

rows of black and white cars on a parking lot waiting to be sold
As a used car dealer or automotive professional, you're constantly browsing the various marketplaces for the best cars and great deals. For most private people, buying a car means going to the car dealership and taking it for a spin. But for car dealers like you (and us), it's a whole different story. That's where things get interesting. And tricky.

When you can't see it in person, being able to evaluate a used car accurately just by looking at it online becomes a matter of careful investigation, research, and experience. That's why we take transparency and detailed descriptions very seriously here at eCarsTrade. After all, your success is our priority.

So what are the best ways to evaluate a used car? We met up with one of our pricing analysts, Marc, to ask him about the most important things to look out for when evaluating a second-hand car online. He also shared his own tricks of the trade and experiences he had picked up along the way.

Ready to dive in? We sure are! In this article we're going to discuss these steps:

1. First impressions
2. Read the description
3. Look at the photos
4. Decide on the trim level
5. The importance of location
6. Choose the right colors
7. Think about the right brands

1. First impressions are everything

You know how humans decide if they like someone or not based on the first impression we make within 7 seconds? For Marc, it's the same with cars. "The car has to have a certain aesthetic feel from the moment I see it", Marc shares. Whether it comes to color, the look of the wheels, or just general aesthetic, go for what grabs your attention. Try not to overthink this step. Just trust your gut feeling.

2. Read the description and then read it again

Evaluating a second-hand car is all about your investigative skills more than anything else. Taking your time to read through the description carefully will save you from potentially expensive problems down the road.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading the description thoroughly. If I could give you only one piece of advice, this would be it. Read everything and then read it again. You basically only need this step for a successful evaluation”, Marc says.

Any potential mechanical damages will also always be highlighted in the description. Look out for this symbol in the description box of our listings - it will tell you the exact nature of the damages.

close up of a white car with minor scratch damage around one of the lights


3. Look at all of the photos

This point probably doesn’t need any further clarification. Along with the descriptions, photos are everything you need for a successful evaluation of a used car. “Let’s take Alfa Romeo Giulia, for example. This car is usually a 5-seater, but it will occasionally be sold in France as a 2-seater. Many people don’t know this, so they buy the car without reading the description or looking at the photos, assuming they’ve just bought a 5-seater. You can imagine their surprise when they receive the car.” Yikes. Definitely don’t skip this step!

4. Decide on the trim level

What is the trim level of a car exactly? It basically means how many special features and extra equipment a car has. “A lot of the times, we will get a call from a customer asking about a price difference between two seemingly same cars. One is 5000€ more expensive than the other, but they look the same”, Marc continues. The difference lies in the trim level. Nowadays, some things have become the standard, like air conditioning. However, a sports package will drive up the cost of a car in no time.

Look for things in the description box that are marked with this symbol . We strive to clearly label these high-value extras - like panoramic roofs, LED lights, cruise control, or parking assistance - so you can see at a glance all the features that make a specific model more expensive than the other.

black Land Rover parked on the eCarsTrade parking lot

5. The importance of location

You probably heard this a million times for real estate, but it applies just as well to used car trading – location, location, location. Where you plan to sell your cars will determine what kinds of vehicles you need to buy.

Understanding consumer behavior for the country you will be selling in is super important. Italian drivers, for example, prefer Italian car brands and smaller agile cars that fit into tight places and can easily zoom around narrow Italian streets – like Fiat 500, Opel Corsa or Peugeot 208.

On the other hand, the best-selling car brands in Germany are, yep, you guessed it, German brands. Colder countries with harsher conditions and longer distances between populated areas will prefer bigger SUVs and station wagons.

Here is also where GDP per capita, mileage of the car, and type of fuel start to intertwine. Petrol cars with lower mileage will be more popular in countries like Belgium or The Netherlands. Electric cars are also growing in popularity in these countries. On the other hand, used diesel cars with higher mileage will sell quickly in countries like Romania, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

eCarsTrade graphic showing the most sold car colors in different price ranges

6. Evaluating a used car by color

The color of the car is another important aspect to consider for traders browsing online auction marketplaces. Traditional colors like black, grey, and silver will be the safest choice in every aspect. Marc shares a little insider tip he learned through experience - "Blue and brown cars tend to be cheaper just because of their color, which is great when you're buying. But those cars can be a bit difficult to resell". Our own sales statistics show that black and grey are by far the most bought cars in every price range.

Location also plays an important role in the choice of colors. In warmer countries like Portugal, Italy or Spain, white or silver are good color choices because they reflect the sun. Research from the Berkeley Lab Environmental Energy Technologies Division shows that white and silver cars have an interior temperature of 5-6°C lower than black cars.

Red can be a bit of a wild card. It's definitely less popular than the safe, neutral colors, but can you imagine a Ferrari in any other color? We sure can't.

close up of a red car and black Jaguar parked on eCarsTrade parking

7. The right brands for your used car

Knowing which car brands to buy for your own business will depend on many factors, but the rule of thumb goes something like this: German cars are always a safe choice. Reliable, high quality, built to last – you can’t go wrong with those. “There is always a high demand for Volkswagen, Mercedes, Audi and BMW. Those cars always go well regardless of the year or the season.”

French and Italian cars are also good sellers, and Tesla is gaining popularity in the electric car market thanks to various tax benefits of owning an electric vehicle. Choose a brand popular in the end destination of the car, or go for a universally safe and liked option like the German brands.

8. BONUS TIP - Ask us for help

At eCarsTrade, our mission is to empower you with knowledge and tools to help you bid on auctions and win the cars you want. For that reason, we created a tool to help you determine the value of a used car so you can place competitive bids stress-free. Register on the site and get in touch with our team to access our Market price evaluation tool! This tool will quickly and accurately help you figure out the exact value of a second-hand car.

How to evaluate a used car

There you have it! As our pricing analyst Marc keeps saying, evaluating a car online is just a matter of careful reading and looking at every single photo. And then reading some more. And then looking some more. You get the picture by now! As you get more experience in the automotive industry, you’ll be able to determine which cars sell best or work best for your line of business.

Happy bidding!


eCarsTrade offers online auto auctions of ex-lease vehicles from Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany, with a complete maintenance history. We guarantee the quality of our vehicles, and a fast, simple and transparent purchasing process with fixed commission costs. We work with both European and international used car dealers and traders. Our dedicated managers are always here to help you with any questions or concerns.
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