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Dubai – The UAE is a delight for car lovers with an array of choices form vintage to sports cars, luxury sedans to family SUVs. If you are looking to get your favourite set of wheels at a good price, pre-owned cars might be your best option.

Alternatively, perhaps you want to sell your car and want to get the best deal out of it. Here is all you need to know and do to buy and sell a used car in the UAE.

Where can you buy or sell a second-hand car?

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There are several options for someone in the market for a pre-owned car:

  • Authorised dealers
  • Used car markets
  • Websites
  • Newspapers
  • Dealers

There are different dealers in the car market, with many authorised dealerships like Al Futtaim, Al Tayer or Al Rostamani also selling and buying pre-owned cars.

Authorised dealers have stricter regulations and inspections in place, which can provide better guarantees to the buyer or seller. However, many customers also try to look for better deals with other dealerships or used car markets, which can come with its own set of risks.

A 2016 survey by online dealers, also found that while respondents would feel comfortable selling their car back to official dealers, most sellers wouldn’t qualify for an equitable deal. The CEO, Saygin Yalcin said: “Our respondents indicate that selling back to the dealer only works for very new cars – one or two years old. Older vehicles usually aren’t considered or any car that doesn't fit with the dealer’s brand strategy. Even when they are, the price can be quite low as the dealer looks to underwrite its expensive premises.”

Used car markets

Al Aweer auto market in Dubai. Image Credit: Gulf News

There are several used car souqs in the UAE as well, with a used car market in Al Aweer, Dubai, Motor World in Abu Dhabi's Shamkha area or Souq Al Haraj in Sharjah, which is said to be the Mena region’s largest.

Speaking to Gulf News in 2016, Michel Ayat, CEO of Arabian Automobiles, authorised dealers of Nissan, Infiniti and Renault, said: “We estimate the used car market in the UAE is worth Dh11.2 billion. Annually, around 85,000 right hand drive cars are exported while 140,000 cars are sold in the domestic market. Of these 225,000 cars, only 25,000 are bought through authorised dealers. The remaining 200,000 get sold in the unorganised market whose dealers operate in Aweer, Sharjah and other areas.”

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Many websites like offer residents the opportunity to buy and sell used cars. They also help you get an evaluation of your car by providing the vehicle specifications like year, make, model and any repair work that might have gone into it over the years.


Classified sections in the newspaper are also a great way to look for used cars available in the market, whether from individual sellers or dealerships.

What are the risks?

The biggest risk that you can face as a buyer is not following due diligence as a buyer. If you are getting a used car with low mileage and visibly good condition at a dirt cheap rate, may be the deal is too good to be true.

Sharing a recent experience with Gulf News, Al Ain resident Huzaifa Kalimi said, “Just recently I was getting a 2015 sedan by a Japanese car manufacturer for Dh16,000. It was a great deal because the man selling the car told me that he was going to put a new set of wheels as well. The interior was in very good condition and the engine also seemed fine. However, the man kept delaying the car transfer and after postponing the appointment a couple of times, he asked for some of the money in advance. That was when I decided that this wasn’t a deal that I wanted to go through with. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Some of the ways in which you could get duped as a buyer is if the car had met with a major accident and had been refurbished, with a lot of body work being done to hide the damage. The mileage of the car can also be misleading as some unscrupulous sellers can tamper with the odometer. The car might not have the original paint, which the seller might not disclose.

These are all the aspects that you need to check on before signing up for your new set of wheels.

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For sellers, it is important to ensure the payment comes through. Be wary of buyers who do not pay upfront, during the car registration or pay through post-dated cheques.

Why are prices so different for the same model?

A study conducted found that second-hand vehicles of the same model or make carry different price tags, with the price variance ranging between 40 per cent and 50 per cent. There are difference factors that come into play:

  • GCC specs/American specs (sometimes you also get Japanese specs that can go for a higher price).
  • The car might have been in a major accident and has been repaired.
  • The mileage reading has been tampered with.

For sellers, it is important to get a valuation of your car from reliable dealerships that will not try to undercut your profit margins.

What can I do about it?

These are some steps you can take to ensure you do not get into a bad deal when trying to buy or sell a second-hand car.

Get the car tested

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It is always advisable to get the car tested either by the Roads and Transport Authority or an authorised place like Tasjeel or at the city’s official transport authority.

Going to a local workshop or mechanic can be risky, as their tests might not be standardised. Additionally, there is a chance that the seller and the workshop have an understanding, with the workshop giving a false roadworthiness report.

Never buy the car and then get it checked, as several workshops have reported that customers come for checks after buying the car. By that time, it is too late to recover any money once the payment has been made.

Make sure that the engine, chassis, transmission, A/C compressor, and the head gasket must be in acceptable working order; don’t buy if they are not.


You might need to pay anywhere from Dh150 to Dh350 for a car inspection, depending on how extensive the test is.

This is another area where dealing with an authorised car dealer might give you better peace of mind. In a detailed statement to Gulf News, Al Tayer Motors, which has several pre-owned car showrooms across the UAE, said: “Every brand we represent has its own stipulated number of checks on the vehicles before they are taken in to the Approved / Certified vehicles fleet.”

Depending on the manufacturer, vehicles undergo comprehensive inspection, with inspection points ranging from 164-200. Al Tayer said that depending on which car customers' choose, it also offered buyback guarantees, roadside assistance, and any reconditioning is done using genuine parts.

For sellers, Al Tayer said: “A trade-in service by a professional expert is also available.”

Ask for a full service history

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Ask for a full service history, especially if the seller claims that he or she has been the sole owner of the car. Even with dealerships, it is important to ask for service history as it might give a more accurate indication of the mileage clocked by the automobile.

How do I know the car has not been in a major accident?

Look for any signs that the car has had a paint job. Any signs of fading, rust, dents or scratches or roughness can indicate that the car is not in its original paint.

Carefully checking the chassis is also important to figure out if there has been any major damage to the car.

Again, it is important to get a vehicle test done. Have the car undergo an inspection by a dealership or garage to ensure its safety and roadworthiness – if the car’s registration has already expired get a certificate of roadworthiness.

For imported cars, a handy website is, which provides a full service history of cars from the USA or Canada once you enter the car’s unique 17-digit VIN number, which is also known as the chassis number. You can find the VIN number on the corner of the dashboard on the driver’s side, where the dashboard meets the windshield. You can also find it on the driver’s door, near the latch.

UAE residents can check the Abu Dhabi Police website, which will give you the entire car history. Simply visit the website and select Public Services. You will be able to find out about all the accidents a car has had by providing the chassis number.

Is the odometer manipulated?

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Watch out if you notice a car being sold for a price which is lower than the market value with a low mileage. It’s quite possible that the odometer has been tampered with by the seller. Even if it’s a digital odometer, your seller could still tamper with the readings. For example, if a car is at 120,000 kms it can be easily brought down to 50,000 kms for approximately Dh100.

To avoid falling into this trap, you can request a full service report. It will show the last service date with the kilometers traveled.

Another sign that the car might have clocked more kilometers than the odometer suggests is if the steering wheel or car interiors look more worn out than one would expect.

Always test drive the car

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By driving the car, both on straight roads as well as turns, you can check for any abnormal squeaks, sounds or performance issues.

What about American spec cars?

While looking at car listings, you might get a really good deal. On closer inspection, however, a term might pop up – American specs. Cars are largely labelled in the used car market as GCC specs and American specs and prices may vary, with American specs going for a cheaper price. Why is that?

While there is nothing inherently wrong with a car having American specifications (the speedometer might read in mph instead of kph, for example), it is important to understand why the car might have been imported from North America all the way to the Middle East. Was it written off? Several dealers in the UAE have raised the alarm of total-loss cars, referred to as salvage cars in the US, have been entering the UAE used car market. Once they are repaired and restored, they are sold at a lower cost.

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It is important to consider how much you can find out about the vehicle before making a final decision. It might not be easy to get a full car history for an imported car and it becomes difficult to determine if the odometer readings are accurate or not.

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Protect yourself legally

Do not give money to the seller before registering the car under your name. Ensure the seller is present when you go to register the car.

Check that all outstanding fines have been paid for. You can do this online on the Dubai Police website.

Ensure that the car’s registration has not elapsed two years or more (in such cases, the Road and Traffic Authority can decide to write off the car).

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A handy checklist for buying a used car:

  • Get the car tested
  • Ask for a full service history
  • If it is an American specs car, check online for car history.
  • If the car looks to be repainted, there is a chance that it was in a major accident.
  • If the car’s interiors look worn out, it could indicate the odometer has been tampered with.
  • Check the tyres for wear and tear
  • Test drive the car
  • Ensure all previous fines have been paid.
  • Make sure you do not make any payments until the owner/dealer is physically present and only after the necessary documents of transfer have been signed.

A handy checklist for selling your car:

  • Clean your car thoroughly to make it presentable before taking any pictures.
  • Take photographs during the day, when the car’s features and make are clearly visible.
  • Provide a detailed description and full service history.
  • Get the car valuation done from reliable dealers to figure out the best price.
  • Make sure the payment is made upfront.

How to transfer car registration

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Once you have finally made the decision on the car, these are some of the processes you need to consider:

In case of a loan

If you are selling a car, you need to first settle the mortgage as a mortgaged car cannot be sold. Speak to the buyer and visit your bank to discuss ways in which the remainder of the loan can be repaid. If you are selling to a dealership, you can speak with them to find out how the payment can be made to first settle the loan.

Once the loan has been settled, you will get a release letter, and the car registration can then be transferred to a new owner.

Car insurance

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If the insurance is transferrable, visit the insurance company to transfer the ownership. You will need to provide:

  1. Driver’s licence and Emirates ID of both parties
  2. Passport copy may be required
  3. Original auto insurance papers

It is best to confirm with your respective insurance company what the process for transfer of insurance is. Once the documents are submitted, the buyer can pay for the remainder of the insurance on a pro-rata basis.

Registering the car

You can visit the following places to transfer the registration of the car:

  1. Authorised dealership
  2. Transport authority offices
  3. Authorised centres like Tasjeel, Shamil, Mumayaz etc

Which documents will I need?

  1. Original Emirates ID
  2. Driver’s license of the buyer
  3. Passport copy with residence visa copy
  4. Car insurance documents
  5. The vehicle’s current registration card
  6. Previous registration documents.
  7. Certificate of roadworthiness will be required if the car’s registration has already expired.
  8. Original license plates.
  9. If the car in being financed, a salary certificate, signed and stamped, by the new owner’s employer is required.

Once you have followed all the steps and done your due diligence, congratulations! You have successfully navigated the tricky world of used cars!

How long is the registration valid for?

The car’s registration is valid for one year and must be renewed annually.