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Cars & Motoring: Tips for Buying a Used Car

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Cars & Motoring: Tips for Buying a Used Car


Written by  Laurinda Seabra
Monday, 24 July 2017 10:11

When Christmas is getting closer, and being that time of the year, when gifts are on most people's buying lists and on most people's minds, there is no reason that you should not give yourself your own Christmas gift. A new set of wheels to start the New Year. But, buying a car is always a costly exercise, and entails certain risks.  Buying a used vehicle also comes with several pitfalls which are less pronounced with new cars.

Here, we will try to provide you with a number of ideas on how best to examine that potential new-for-you set of wheels. Perhaps the first thing to think about is whether you wish to purchase from a used car dealer, or whether you are comfortable with a private seller.

Buying from a private seller might be cheaper, but it is a bigger risk, since there’s little to hold the private seller accountable.  

In this article, we will try to provide you with a number of ideas on how best to examine the options available to you as you search for that new set of wheels. Perhaps the first thing to think about is whether you wish to purchase from a used car dealer, or whether you are comfortable with a private seller

The first thing to keep in mind is that in Portugal second hand cars are more expensive than in many other countries. The reason is that new cars in Portugal retain their prices better than anywhere else, and that has a great impact on price retention in the second hand market.  

Irrespective of who you are going to buy your new set of wheels from, you have to make sure that you get all the required car documentation so that you can legally transfer the car into your name.   

The government department responsible for vehicle registrations and licensing is the “Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes Terrestres” or as it is commonly know the IMTT or you can go to your nearest Institute of Registration and Notaries (The local Conservatoria).  

Another factor that you must keep in mind is that all cars in Portugal are required by law to have at least third party insurance cover, anything above that is up to you, and based on your preference and budget.   

If you buy your car from a private seller, you as the buyer are responsible for managing all the bureaucracy and paperwork, but should you opt to use a dealership to buy your car from, the dealer will take care of all the necessary legal requirements to register and transfer the car into your name.  

Instead of opting for a second hand car, you may decide instead to go for a brand new car.

In Portugal there are incentives for buying new cars, especially if they are hybrids or eco-friendly, and the government has introduced a rebate program in an endeavor to motivate owners to scrap cars that are older than 8 years. The program known as the End of Life Vehicle Program (Veiculos em Fim de Vida 2010, VFV) offers incentives for the purchase of new, more eco-friendly automobiles through a state-owned program legislated under Act n.º 292-A/2000, of 15 of November.  

This offers a reduction of the Automobile Tax (Imposto Automóvel, IA) on the purchase of a new vehicle, if the buyer hands over a passenger vehicle and uses VFV that meets the following requirements: 

  • Has been the property of the petitioner for more than six months
  • Has been licensed on road for at least eight years
  • There are no liens against the vehicle
  • The vehicle is in good working order and has no missing parts
  • It is turned in for destruction at licensed scrap yard, the “bombeiros” (fire brigade) or to a vehicle inspection center. (In the case of the purchase of a new car, the dealership takes responsibility for this.)


Another thing to keep in mind, is that if you are a foreigner and want to buy a Portuguese-registered car in Portugal, there are a few qualifiers before you can do so.

You have to have an official Residence Permit (Cartão de Residência); or proof that you are a Portuguese home owner (by showing title deeds); or that you have a rental contract for a minimum duration of one year.

To recap: If you buy from a private seller, they are required by law to provide you with the vehicle's documentation and very little else, you are in fact buying a vehicle on an "As is" basis. If you are buying your car from a used car dealer, check whether the dealer is registered with the respective authorities.  One good thing is that most used car dealers have to provide you with a minimum warranty.  

Once you decide where you are going to buy your new car, one of the main priorities should be to check the car history.  If you are purchasing from a used car dealer, they most likely have this prepared for you.  

  • Over and above that, you should do an inspection of the body panels—make sure the lines of the car are straight, and that reflections in the paint are not distorted.  
  • Ensure the doors and trunk open and close easily and properly. Take a look under the hood and check the general cleanliness of the engine (you don’t want it to be covered in engine oil, for example).   
  • Next check some fluid levels.  Remember that dipsticks must be removed, cleaned off, reinserted, and then checked.  Engine oil should be fairly clear, and farther from black is better.  If the vehicle has an automatic transmission, the transmission fluid should be clear and clean, and a burnt smell is a bad indication.  Always take the vehicle for a test drive.  
  • Starting the car should be problem-free, and no blue smoke should come out of the exhaust.  If the car is an automatic, putting the car in drive or reverse should be smooth and quick, and as the car goes through the gears the changes should be smooth as well.    Manual transmissions should change gears easily, and the clutch should not slip under acceleration.  Check every electrical accessory that you can think of: windows, seats, radio, etc.  
  • Pay special attention to the heater and air conditioner.  Ultimately, it might be wise to have a mechanic that you trust give the car a once-over, to make sure everything is alright.  Once you are satisfied with the car, and having bought it, we wish you lots of trouble free times.

And finally, you are congratulated, you are now the proud owner of a new set of wheels ... your own Christmas present, from yourself to yourself!




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