Tips on Buying a Used SUV

Giulia Nigrini
Giulia Nigrini
Vehicle Service Contract Specialist, Traveler, Car Enthusiast
April 14, 2022
min. read

An SUV can be a useful car to have around. It has great space for groceries, kids, camping, generally large families, pets, and so much more. There are a few SUVs out there and the specs can be a bit intimidating if you are unfamiliar with the terminology. A great place to start is looking at buying a used SUV. In this guide, we are going to take a look at tips on buying a used SUV and what the common listed specs mean.

Before You Begin

When you decide that it is time to buy an SUV it can fill you with excitement. Most of us immediately go and look online and see the deals around. We whisk through the cars and see a few that look good and make us feel like it is possible. But before you get carried away, take a moment to check on what is possible within your means.

Sure it might not feel good right now doing the so-called “adult” thing but it will make you feel great down the road. You want to satisfy your need for something awesome. I mean who doesn’t want to do that? Honestly though the best thing is to take a look at what you can do within the means you have. Try not to push the limit and stick to your budget. You will always find something that fits your needs, looks good enough, and fits the budget if you take care not to go over your limit.

Down Payment

One of the big payments will be the down payment for the car. This could be a sum of money or the trade-in of your current car. Whichever it may be, it will be important to know what that amount is before looking at SUVs. For many this is money they have saved but for most it is the trade-in of their current car. If you are using your savings then be sure to have enough money left aside for other costs and not use your whole savings as the down payment amount. Rather use a portion of it. If you are trading-in a car, be sure to have some savings to use for other costs that are involved with purchasing an SUV.

Repair Budget

Buying a used SUV is a great way to save on initial costs but there will always be some kind of repairs needed for a used car. Minor repairs should be taken into consideration when buying a used SUV. A good amount is around $500 set aside for possible repairs needed on the vehicle. This is just to save yourself the hassle of having to fork out money outside of the budget. Lessening this possibility will only lighten the load for you in the whole purchasing process.


When you purchase a car, new or used, you have the option of financing if you are not buying the car outright. This is essentially a loan that you take out to finance the remainder of the price of the SUV. For example, if you purchase a car of $30,000 and your down payment is $10,000 you will then take financing for the remaining $20,000.

When taking a look at your financing options you must look at the monthly payment amount and ensure that it is affordable for your income bracket. The other thing to keep in mind is the interest rate and how much that equates to at the end of your repayment period. Finding a balance between monthly installments and the interest rate will greatly benefit you. It will also help you narrow down what you are willing and able to spend on a used SUV.

Car Insurance

When it comes to keeping your car covered against accidents, theft, fire, and other such incidents it is important to have car insurance. I know insurance may not seem all that desirable but with the right plan you can feel safe knowing that should you have an accident you will be covered. Starting early with insurance can help keep your premiums low and in many cases you will find favorable rewards programs.

Extended Car Warranty

Speaking about coverage, you should really consider an extended car warranty if the SUV you are purchasing does not already have one in place. An extended car warranty is a vehicle service contract that is offered by third-party providers. Each plan covers your vehicle in the event of a mechanical breakdown. This is a great asset to have especially as they come with some wonderful perks. We will get a bit more into the extended car warranty options further on.

Used SUV Buyer’s Checklist

One can get super detailed with a checklist for tips on buying a used SUV, however, we thought we would cover the most important points to take into account when buying an SUV. A good idea is also to take some time to research various makes and models to narrow down your search to a select few that will most likely meet your needs from the practical to the looks. Now that you have your selection and  are ready to look at an actual SUV we can jump into what to look for when buying a secondhand SUV.

Reason for Sale

Establishing the reason behind selling the SUV will give you better insight into the potential condition of the SUV and pull up any red flags early on. There are often good reasons for selling a SUV that is in good condition like buying a new one or moving overseas. Either way it is very important to know the reason for sale. This will help you understand the care it has seen and if major repairs may be a possibility.

Maintenance History

With a established reason for sale, it is wise to then take a look at the maintenance history to see that oil changes, tune-ups, and general maintenance have been done over the years. Proper care is key to having a SUV that lasts for many, many years. The maintenance history will give you an idea of the car the car has seen as well. A car that has a well documented history and has done all the necessary maintenance at the desired milestones is generally one that has been kept well. On the other hand, if this is not available it may be a sign of poor care taken and the SUV might have other problems under the hood.

Accident History

It is important to know all you can about the history of the SUV. Any possible accidents could influence the overall maintenance going forward. If there was some sort of collision in the past you want to be sure that repairs were done correctly and by an accredited shop. If the repairs are done by someone else you won’t be able to get an extended car warranty and struggle to find insurance to cover the vehicle. It may also be unreliable since the repairs may not have been done in the appropriate manner.

Tire Tread

Tires give you a good amount of information about the SUV you are looking at buying. If the tread is worn or there is evidence that the tires have not been rotated it is a clear sign that the maintenance may not have been done on the tires. If this is the case, find out more about the tires and when they have been changed. Good tire health is important to the vehicle’s overall health.


Check the outside of the car for damage to the paint, panels, and if there is any visible rust. The edges of the doors are generally a good place to check for wear and tear. If the car has been resprayed, it would be good to know since it may affect any repair costs down the line. Any custom work on the car could also affect your chance of getting insurance and an extended car warranty.


The wear and tear on the seats may give you an indication of how frequently the SUV was used and whether or not the interior was taken care of or not. All elements that need to be repaired will be for your pocket once you buy the SUV. So making sure the seats are not covered in scratches and the dashboard is all scuffed will add to your evidence of how well the care was taken care of while in the hands of the previous owner.

Towing and Load Capacity

Depending on your needs the towing and/or load capacity of the SUV may change your decision. Knowing exactly what you want to use it for will help narrow down the SUV with the right setup for you. Each SUV has its own advantages and disadvantages. This will come up during your research of various models. If you are planning on going off road often you could look at something more rugged but if you are more for the occasional camping weekend you can take something that is better with fuel consumption on road.

Under the Hood

Ask about the radiator, battery, hoses & belts, and fluids in the engine. Be sure to get information and perhaps even see the engine to see its condition. Ask about having a third-party mechanic look at the vehicle on your behalf. Though this will force the purchasing process to take a bit longer it may save you a huge headache in the long run by avoiding any SUVs with mechanical damage you cannot recognize.

Take a friend if you can. A second opinion from someone you trust can help make the decision easier. Often a second set of eyes will spot things you do not see initially. This will be particularly useful for checking for rusted parts or any damaged areas while the sales representative is talking to you.

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