Although not always as expensive, buying a used car can be as daunting and confusing a prospect as buying a new car. You still have to consider the cost and type of car, but now face the potential pitfalls of used cars – is it legitimate, roadworthy and reliable – where do I buy a used car?
Below is a list of tips to help you when buying a used car :
- Decide on a budget and make sure you stick to it. It should include the cost of insurance, fuel, MOT, road tax and servicing.
- Decide what type of car you want. You need to consider what you will be using it for- transporting children, pets, driving long distances regularly or for leisure use.
- Decide how you are going to finance the cost of the car – a personal loan is one option for this type of purchase. It may be best to arrange finance before going any further, as you will then be forced to stick to your budget.
- Shop around – look on the internet to get an idea of types of car and what the current prices are. Check papers, especially those like Autotrader that specialize in used car sales. There are also used car dealers (you have more rights and safeguards here than with buying privately)– take time to look around a variety of these and be prepared for possible hard sell techniques!
- Always view cars in good light – if it is dark or dull this is likely to hide faults.
- Taking along another person may be a good idea – they may be able to spot what you miss.
- For private sales, view the car at the sellers’ home rather than let them bring it to you. It lets you see where the car is coming from.
- Check all the documents carefully – this could save you any future headaches. Look in the log book (V5) and ensure the name there matches that of the seller (for private sales). Check service history and records, Mot certificate (for vehicles over 3yrs old) and any receipts for repairs or maintenance.
- Make sure all the dates add up/make sense.
- Organize an independent inspection – this often pays for itself as it can pick up any potentially serious or costly problems. The RAC and Green Flag offer these, as do many other motoring organizations.
- Get an HPI check – this is very worthwhile as it identifies any stolen, written off or cloned vehicles.
- Take a test drive – for all cars you are interested in buying. This should be at least 15 minutes over a variety of different road surfaces. It allows you to decide if the car is comfortable and whether it handles well. Make sure the car is taxed and you are insured to drive it. Listen for any bumps, rattles or squeaks that could be indicative of a problem.
- Walk around the car and methodically check it.
- Be prepared to haggle over the price, and do not buy impulsively. It is often worth mentioning that you have been looking on the internet and are aware of current prices.
DIY Car Inspection
This may be helpful to take with you to ensure you don’t forget anything.
Bodywork – Rust
- Look on the inner wings, bulkhead, cross members and chassis members under the bonnet. If you find any it is best to walk away from the car.
- Under Car – check the side sills, chassis legs, cross members and subframes. If you think there may be a problem, lightly tap the area with a small hammer or push hard with your hand. If it gives way easily there may be weakened metal.
- Check the floor for corrosion.
- Ensure that brake pipes are not crusted with rust
- Check suspension and steering mounts.
- Check the oil – if it is very black the car has not been regularly or recently serviced. If it is beige and thick there may be a head gasket leak
- Check coolant – ensure it is not red and rusty looking.
- Listen to the engine start up from cold – ensure there is no black/blue smoke coming from the exhaust. The oil light should go out quickly, and there should not be any knocking or rattling noises.
- The vehicle should idle smoothly with no revving, pinking (tinny rattling) or misfiring.
- The car should go into gear easily, with no crunching or slipping. Check for slipping by driving up- hill in top gear.
- If it is an automatic – check the dipstick for fluid levels, and if it smells burnt it is best to avoid the vehicle.
- Ensure the vehicle handles well – its steering is responsive and not wobbly or pulling to one side.
- The brakes should work quickly and easily – the pedal should be resistant and not go all the way down to the floor. There should be no juddering when the brakes are applied, and the vehicle should not swerve to one side.
- Check the tyres – ensure they all have sufficient tread (outside edge of 10p piece) and there is no cracking.
- Look at the odometer – if the numbers are out of line this could indicate clocking.
- Be aware of the general condition of the vehicle and whether this reflects its mileage.
- Look under the carpet between the front and back doors – are there any signs of welding, as this could indicate that 2 halves have been joined together and the vehicle is then very dangerous.
Remember – if you still have doubts or concerns at this stage it is better to walk away from the vehicle and look for something else.