How to Shortlist Used Cars on Gumtree

I was bad. By now, I'm rather good, probably better than 90% of Singaporeans living in Perth in buying used cars. I am certain that Singaporeans in Perth will protest against that, especially the car enthusiast or pretenders alike. Unfortunately in the real world, you are unlikely to be a good football manager just because you won the league for 10 consecutive years in Football Manager. The same goes for those chaps who are so proud of themselves in their car expertise. They can probably put me in the trash bin by just rapping car specifications in my face.  Still, they don't even come close when it comes to getting a great used car deal.


Because I have PRACTICE. Practicing beats air talk. I have both fucked up and I have succeeded in clinching steals. Behind my buys, I have interacted with 10 times more potential sellers through viewings (which I ended up not buying most of the time). Gradually, I became better and faster in doing this. When someone comes up to me and ask me if a certain car model of a certain year is worth a certain price, I can tell him or her right away most of the time. Of course, those models must be within my liking. Being a NON-car enthusiast, I have no interests in other cars that serve no use to me. Due to this, my knowledge base is focused and potent. That is why I'm good.

I didn't realise I was that good until I found myself smacking my head on the desk when I hear someone bought X for X-price. It was then I realise I could smell a bad deal from far. On top of that, identifying a decent deal is merely one of the scopes within the steal capturing framework. Inspecting it, negotiation and even out-psyching a seller part of the package if one wants to be an expert. Most crucially, the ability to give your seller the middle finger and walk away from the deal effortlessly. I have no emotions. I am not a car enthusiast after all. Specifications do not impress me. Nothing excites me except for a great deal. 

Commoners say, "Wow I love this car." I say, "There is a better deal out there." Understand the key difference.

I had a colleague who threw me a query this morning. He quoted me an exciting prospect of decent used car he was considering buying. It was a 2000 Honda CRV on a 210k mileage that had timing belt and water pump changed recently. The seller claimed to be moving overseas and asked for $3,700.

Immediately, I told him "Bad deal," even without asking for further details. Firstly, the starting price is already way over the "market price." Secondly, urgent sellers holds the bottom position (in mighty Nix's rule book) in negotiating powers. Obviously, they have priced it way up because they are expecting people to slash the price. In that way, they will still get away with a good deal. That's not our interest here. We are interested in only getting a good deal for ourselves. In used car buying, there is no win-win. Only I win. Remember that. Else, no deal. Simple as. Lastly, who in the right mind will change the timing belt and water pump and list it out for sale immediately, especially when he knows he is leaving the country? Do you smell the smelly smell? Maybe not you but I do.

Colleague threw me a challenge. "No good cars available now!" he said.

I don't like challenges because I am a very lazy person. Besides, it wasn't my money and I don't care how people choose to spend their money. Likewise, I don't want anyone to interfere with how I do it. But a challenge is a challenge. So I told him I'll give him 3 better options in 3 minutes. And I did.

Car #1 - 2000 Honda HR-V, mileage 200k, asking price $2,499.00

White cars are beautiful. I wanted them all the time but I ended up with shit colours. That is because colour is the last priority on my list because that is what it should be. So a beautiful white car like that is a BONUS. The glass looks tinted, great for long sunny road trips. It's a 4 x 4 so it's comparable to what the buyer is looking for. Tyres in good condition. It is also better in fuel consumption because of a smaller engine. Also, the car dealer (not a private seller) offered a 1 year warranty in parts and labour. With a bit of effective negotiation, it can very well end up a decent deal. Definitely worth a test-drive. Not the best of deal out there but beats the buyer's shortlist blind folded.

Car #2 - 1999 Honda CRV Sport, mileage 180k, asking price $3,000

Now, an apple to apple comparison. 

2000 Honda CRV, 210k mileage, $3,700 (timing belt and water pump changed)
1999 Honda CRV Sports Edition, 180k mileage, $3,000

Which is a better deal?

The sports version looks great. It has a sunroof and stylo milo bumpers and spare tyre cover etc. These cost a few grand difference to the normal version at the point of a first purchase. They are worth nothing when they become old. A lesson applicable for other life aspects such as choosing your wife or borrowing money to renovate a house etc. The timing belt + water pump change will probably even off the price. But you end up having a car with 30k less mileage and sports addition. Again, it isn't the best deal in the world but for a straight comparison, it's a no brainer.

Car #3 - 1999 Kia Sportage, mileage 140k, asking price $2,350

Korean car. Ok, I know, I know. Koreans cars are shit. All you fuckers have to be more creative than that. Incidentally, my mobile car mechanic was actually recommended by the buyer, who obviously trusted his skills and knowledge. The mechanic actually drives a Daewoo. Oops.

You can condemn Korean cars for all you want, in front of your LG TV and posting comments through your Samsung tablet, but I'll still recommend this one as an option. Stereotyping doesn't work for me. Like I said, I have no emotions, preferences or brand loyalty when it comes to this business. It's as stupid as saying a Thai wife is better than a Vietnamese. Or a white man is better in sex. It happens when you manage to get a good version of it but that doesn't make the nationality or race a given. So if you are telling me a Japanese car is definitely a more reliable car or a Korean car is definitely full of faults, I am not convinced.

This car has ample space for the buyer's needs (camping and stuff) and will definitely be negotiated down to the $1.x.

A few points I will like to leave behind before I sign off.

1) The used car market in Perth at the moment is quite fluid. New listings appear almost every day. Therefore, if there is a day where only shitty deals are available, it is definitely recommendable to wait out a few days (I'll even do weeks or months) to find an absolute gem.

2) Sellers have different motivations. Some sell after buying a new car. Some are relocating. Some are downsizing. Some are getting rid of a faulty car (at your expense). Surplus sell. Desperate for money. Identify their motivations and use that to your advantage.

3) Be prepared to walk away. There is always a better deal out there, regardless of what the seller says or what you think. Fact.

4) Be a negotiator from hell. Never buy a used car without getting a substantial discount because used car are never faultless. Each fault can be used for negotiation. Be flexible and adjust your negotiation methods according to the profile and motivation of the seller.

5) Never bring your emotions along. How attractive the seller looks or how he or she described the car like the best thing in the world or how cute his baby / dog is, has nothing to do with the deal. Neither does the look of the car (i.e paintwork). You are in a car yard, not an art gallery.

6) Show that you are keen, even when you are not. Sellers are more like to give you a serious best price if you do not appear to look like you are 'just browsing'. But of course, you are. Note point 3)

7) Always remember, the seller is the beggar. Not you.

8) Never be afraid that the car will be sold before you can buy it. It is easy for any seller to say there are x number of potential buyers. You aren't just any potential buyer, you are better than the rest because you have read this. Note point 3.

9) Never forget point 3.


  1. Surely if the seller is willing to give you a few mangoes then you shouldn't haggle so much? Win-win!

  2. Next time I buy a car, come and help me negotiate, bro. Whatever we save, I split with you 50-50.

    1. you can do a better job than me bro, i'm sure

  3. Can u get your help when I go over next yr?

  4. Can u get your help when I go over next yr?