Buying a car is exciting, and many people often choose to buy their cars second-hand rather than brand new. If you’re buying a used car, make sure you check these key things before you buy to stop your car shopping trip turning into an expensive disaster. These 10 tips will help you make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting for your money!
1. Choose where you’re looking to buy from carefully
There are plenty of places that you can buy a used car – however, some are better than others. For example, auctions are the cheapest place to get a used car. But with limited chance to view the cars in detail beforehand, it’s easy to buy a car that isn’t in as good condition as you’d like. Private sales may seem like less hassle, but you can often find that the prices will be overly optimistic – so watch out for that. Car supermarkets and independent dealers offer lower prices, which is great. However, look out for high mileages which may be causing those low prices. Finally, franchised dealerships tend to more expensive, but can sometimes offer deals and lower mileage cars. Make sure you’re in the know before you set out to buy your used car!
2. Check for wear on the car
Does the wear inside the car - for example of the steering wheel – seem to tally up with the mileage? If the car has a lot of wear but a low mileage, this could be an indicator that something isn’t quite right.
3. Check the exterior of the car
Look for dents and scrapes on the outside of the car – any damage could prove costly to repair. Also, check the paintwork for any parts that appear to be resprayed, as this could indicate prior damage to the car that you might not be told about. Check for rust, and any other signs of wear and tear that might indicate an expensive repair.
4. Check the interior
Check that all of the electronics inside the car work correctly - it also might be worth checking that the heating and air conditioning work, as these will cost you to fix. You might not need the air con right away, but you’re going to thank yourself for checking once the summer months arrive.
5. Check the paperwork
Check the MOT certificates for signs of previous damage, and check that the mileage seems to match up. Also, ask to see the service history – if the car has one – as this shows signs of a well-maintained and looked-after car.
6. History check
It’s possible to pay for a history check, which can determine whether the car has been involved in any accidents before. Your insurance could rocket up if the car has been determined a Category C (write-off) in a previous accident – even if you didn’t know that it had, making it worth checking if you’re unsure.
7. Safety checks
Check that all of the seatbelts work correctly, and anything else that would deem a car unsafe. Make sure that the wipers clear the screen correctly and that the washers work, so that you don’t get stuck driving with a blurry windscreen, which will limit visibility. Also, check that the lights – including fog lights – work correctly. Remember, it’s better to be safe than be sorry.
8. Test drive
Be sure to test drive the car first or, if you’re not confident doing this, get a parent to do it for you. It’s important to listen for any unusual noises coming from the car as this could indicate issues with the engine, brakes or tyres. Check that all of the warning lights come on when you start the car, and then go out. If one remains on, this could indicate a costly fault. Press the brakes and check that they are responsive, and don’t make sound, as this could suggest an issue with the brake disks. A high biting point could also mean that the clutch needs replacing, so keep an eye out for this when test driving the car. If you take your hands off the steering wheel for a second, the car should remain going straight - if it pulls to one side, it could suggest that the tracking is out, which could be an issue later on. Finally, does the handbrake work? You want to know that if you park it, you will find it in the same place when you come back to it.
It might seem that there’s a lot to think about when buying a used car – but all of these quick checks can save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run. If you’re unsure about anything, be sure to ask the seller. If they are unable to explain, be safe and don’t buy.