Buying a used car

Buying a used car


New cars depreciate in value rapidly over the first few years, so buying second hand can get you a good quality car without the ‘new car’ price tag. Here are a few things you should consider before shaking hands on a used car.

What do you need?

If you’re looking to make the most of your budget, you need to have a clear idea of what you want from your car. For example:

  • Will you mostly be using your car for your daily commute?
  • Are you driving in the city or the country?
  • Do you need space for a push chair?
  • How many passengers will you be taking?

Knowing what features are important to you will help you find the right car.

Know your budget

You need to have a budget in mind before you look at a car. Work out how much you can afford and how you’ll pay for it before you buy.

  • Do you need a loan? – If you need to borrow money, figure out how much you can afford to pay back each month.
  • How much will insurance cost? - Call your insurer, tell them the kind of car you are looking for and they’ll give you a quote.
  • How much will you pay in road tax each year? - To check how much your road tax would be, take a look at this government site.
  • How much will you spend on petrol? – Compare your average monthly mileage to the manufacturers quoted fuel economy numbers to work out roughly how much you will be spending each month.
  • How much do I need for general maintenance? - Your car will need an annual MOT and may need repairs and general maintenance so make sure you keep this in mind. Keep in mind that your car will also need annual servicing based on mileage or annually – whichever is reached first.

Speaking to the seller

Make sure you’ve done your research before you view a used car. Prepare some questions for the seller. There are some risks with buying a used car, so don’t feel rushed into making a decision and stay focussed to avoid any pitfalls.

Be aware of any deals that seem too good to be true. Check online to see if the seller has had any positive or negative reviews and if possible, go through a trusted seller.

If the previous owner has had the car for a few years, there should be a service history for you to look over. This will have details on any repairs, problems or modifications the car has had.

  • Is the seller willing to provide a service history? – If there’s no service history make sure you ask why and get a reasonable reply.
  • Is there a recurring fault on the service history? - This could indicate a problem you would have to deal with in the future.

Handbook and additional material

  • Make sure the manufacturer handbook is in the car –These are expensive to replace and contain a crucial information for the upkeep of your car
  • Ask to see the vehicle’s V5C registration document - This shows who and where the car is registered to.
  • Make sure you get a receipt – You need all the details, terms of sale and the seller’s details.

The Test Drive

You’ll need to take the car for a spin before you make a purchase. This way you can see whether the car suits you and how it drives, as well as checking over the mechanical condition of the vehicle.

Things to pay attention to:

  • Does it brake quickly and efficiently?
  • Does the steering wheel vibrate or shake?
  • How easy is it to change gear?
  • Does the car pull to one side?
  • Is the vehicle making any unusual rattling noises?

Download our Used Car Checklist to take with you when inspecting your potential new car.

Look online

There are a number of checks you can do online before you sign on the dotted line to ensure you’re getting the deal you hoped for.

  • Double check the identity of the car - The DVLA website has details such as the year it was manufactured, the date car was first registered and the tax disk expiry date.
  • Using the cars registration number check the car’s MOT – There is a government website that you can use to check the MOT history of your car
  • A private history check – This will tell you if the car has been reported stolen and whether it displays the correct mileage

Don’t be alarmed. There are plenty of genuine sellers and great deals on used cars out there. Just make sure that you’re fully clued up on a vehicle before any money changes hands.




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