Buying a second hand car - a guide
When it comes to buying a second hand car, it pays to do your homework. Whether you're buying a used car from a private dealer, a showroom or at auction there are a few things to look out for before making a purchase.
Have an idea of the make and model that's right for you. Shop around to find out how much you should expect to pay at purchase and how much the car will cost to run, including road tax and car insurance.
Buying a used car from a private dealer
- If possible, view the car in daylight so you can asses it properly
- Ask to see the car's full service history and MOT certificate or, if the car's more than 3 years old, its MOT certificate for each consecutive year
- Check that the mileage increases each year and the numbers match the service records
- Ask to see the V5 vehicle registration document. This should show the registered keeper and not the legal owner. Check the name of the present keeper, if it's not the seller. Find out when they owned the car, what work was done on it and how many miles they done in it.
- Inspect under the bonnet for undue wear and tear and check fluid levels for any leaks
- Check for wear on seats, pedals and the steering wheel
- Make sure the tyres have enough tread - including the spare
- Keep an eye out for mismatched colours, spray paint on door handles, rust damage or any small bumps or scrapes
- Take the car for a lengthy test drive
- Have a third person have a look at the car if you're still unsure
- Don't be pressured into buying
Buying a used car through a dealership
- Choose an established dealership with a good reputation. Consider advice from friends and family who have had a positive experience or look to owners clubs and forums for recommendations
- Check that the warranties that a dealer provides are competitively priced
- Don't always take the dealer's finance scheme - shop around for alternative quotes.
- Check the warranty - find out what is and isn't covered - for how long and how much. Mechanical breakdown warranty will probably cost extra and won't cover everything.
Buying a used car at auction
- Take someone with you - preferably someone familiar with auctions who knows about cars
- Go as a spectator to get a feel of how things work
- Don't get carried away with bidding - stick to your budget. Factor in the seller's premium and fees charged on top of the hammer price
- Complete a history check on the vehicle you're viewing
There's no reason you can't get a great deal on a used car, as long as you do your research beforehand.
For a comprehensive guide to buying a used car, including everything you need to know about data checks and vehicle inspections, visit the RAC website.