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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.

Service history

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.

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?

MOT

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.

Test drive

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:

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.

Before paying

Agree collection/delivery arrangements:

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