What Checks to Make When Buying a Used Car

September 20, 2022
Advice, Automotive

If you’re looking to replace your existing vehicle, then you might save substantially by looking into the used market. Used vehicles, even if they’ve barely been driven, are able to avoid much of the depreciation associated with brand new ones. As such, they represent an excellent opportunity to get more for your money.

With that said, there are risks associated with buying a used car. You might fall victim to a misleading advertisement, or you might end up saddled with a long series of repair bills because you failed to carry out a thorough inspection before buying.

Let’s take a look at a few of the things you’ll want to check for before you invest in a used car.

Check the numbers

Before you take the time to inspect the vehicle in person, you should ask the seller for a few key pieces of information. These include the registration number, the make and model, and the MOT test number. You can use this to consult the DVLA’s database to see that everything checks out, and that all of the information is consistent, and that no safety issues have been uncovered.

If you find that the seller doesn’t want to share this information, then you might fairly interpret this as a red flag. Just walk away from the deal; it’s not worth the risk.

Check dealerships

Approved used dealerships will offer you protections that you won’t get from a private seller. Look for somewhere that specialises in particular manufacturers. For example, there are businesses that deal with used Volkswagen, Audis and many other high-end makes.

Check the logbook

The vehicle logbook, called the V5C, should come with a special watermark indicating its authenticity. If this watermark is missing, then you have a problem. It might be worth checking the V5C of your old car just so that you know what you’re looking at.

Check the car physically

Don’t buy a car on the strength of a photograph alone – or even a series of photographs. There’s no substitute for an in-person inspection. Look at the exterior of the car, checking for nicks and scratches. If you see enough of them, then you can ask for a discount. Scratches might also indicate a pattern of carelessness in the previous owner, which might manifest elsewhere in the vehicle.

You might ask to check the condition of the engine, the oil levels, and the smoke coming out of the exhaust.

Test Drive

You need to test-drive the car before you know how it really feels. Check that all of the warning lights work, and that the handbrake engages properly, and that the gear changes are smooth. Make sure to take the car on a variety of different roads, at different speeds. Pay attention to the experience you’re having. If the car is clunky or unpleasant to drive, then don’t buy it – even if you can’t point to any specific failing.