Buying a used vehicle
Wherever you choose to buy, here are some general tips on buying a used car.
Set your budget
Get insurance quotes and check car tax rates before signing on the bottom line, and remember to factor in the cost of any work that might be needed too. If you're going to borrow money to buy the car it's a good idea to get loan quotes before you go out to view any cars. That way you'll know what you can afford and will be able to tell whether any finance a dealer offers you is good value or not. Always check the loan rates they may make a bargain expensive.
Do your homework
Check price guides and compare similar cars in the classifieds so you know as much as you can about the value of different cars to avoid being overcharged.
Choose when your view
You won't be able to check the condition of the car properly if it's wet - water hides scratches, dents and other problems. Make sure you can see the vehicle clearly and from all angles in the best possible light.
Most cars require some work during the year so the owners of a car a few years old should have amassed quite a sheaf of garage bills for work or parts as well as previous MOT certificates, and records of regular servicing.
- If there's no history then ask why
- Does it look like there might be a persistent fault that still may not have been fixed?
- Does the history tell a consistent story
V5C registration document
Insist on seeing the V5C vehicle registration document.
This shows the registered keeper and not the legal owner. Is the present keeper the person selling you the car? If not, then why are they selling the car for someone else?
If the car is three years old or more make sure there's a continuous series of annual MOT 'certificates'. If you know the vehicle's registration number and the document reference on the V5C you can check a vehicle's MOT status and history (back to 2005) online too. You can also enquire by telephone. Contact the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency's (VOSA's) MOT status line
on 0870 330 0444.
The test drive is your only opportunity to check the car's general mechanical condition and to find our for sure that it meets all your needs:
- Is the driving position comfortable?
- Can you reach/operate all the controls easily?
- Does the engine sound smooth?
- Will it fit into your garage if you have one?
Check the body
Misaligned panels or mismatched colours on doors, bonnet and tailgate can indicate that the car has been repaired after an accident. Traces of spray paint on door handles, window seals and grills can indicate repairs if the engine bay looks like it has recently been power-washed clean the owner could be trying to remove evidence of fluid leaks. A check under the bonnet after a lengthy test drive should reveal any problems. Be wary of anything that seems like a real bargain, or has a very low mileage for its age. There are bargains to be had, but in general, if a deal looks too good to be true then it most likely is.
Agree collection/delivery arrangements:
- Confirm exactly what's included in the price.
- Confirm any work that the seller has agreed to do.
- Make sure you get a receipt showing vehicle details, price, terms of sale and the seller's details.
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