ALMOST every motorist will buy a used car at least once in their lifetime.
Whether you’re looking for your first car, a great deal on an older model as opposed to buying new, or a car you’ve been dreaming of owning since you were a kid, there are plenty of reasons to pick up a second-hand motor.
Although you can often find a bargain on the used-car market, there are dangers when it comes to pre-owned vehicles. We’ve come up with 10 things to consider when buying used:
1. Car condition
First and foremost, it is vital to confirm the car is in the condition advertised. If it is advertised as being in pristine condition, double-check thoroughly for problems such as rust or accident damage when viewing. Don’t take the seller’s word; it could prove costly.
2. Test driving
Not only is test driving a great way to check for faults, you could discover you just don’t like driving it. By the same token, if you find you’re loving the drive, don’t let the fun cloud your judgement. Listen for strange sounds or any odd feedback.
Extensive documentation is usually a sign of a well-kept car. Ensure the vehicle comes with factory handbooks, any warranty details and, most importantly, a V5C document that correlates to the car and the owner; if these don’t match, or no V5C is present, walk away, as the vehicle could be stolen.
4. Service history
A complete service history indicates a car has been well maintained.A vehicle with full manufacturer history points to a well-kept life, although servicing at specialist garages can be just as highly regarded.
5. The seller
Consider the behaviour of the seller and don’t be afraid to ask questions. A seller providing vague details and answers could be a bad sign. Also ensure the property they’ve agreed to meet you at is their own. It’s known for some sellers to park outside more expensive houses to make themselves look more trustworthy. Check the address against the V5C details to see if it tallies.
6. HPI check
A Hire Purchase Investigation (HPI) check costs only a few quid but the information it can provide may be invaluable. The check can flag up stolen vehicles, insurance write-offs, any outstanding finance and mileage discrepancies, to name just a few potential problems.
7. Owner reviews
If you’re feeling 50/50 about a car, reading reviews from other owners can give an insight into what it’s like to own on a daily basis. Although magazine reviews are useful for the driving experience, they don’t always paint the ownership picture.
8. Other cars
Try not to get caught up on one car. If you know what model you want, great, but have a look at a few different ones before purchasing as you could miss out on a better buy. If you’re not sure about the model you want, don’t just go for the closest or easiest buy. Do some research and see what suits you best.
9. Car-specific buying guides
Although these tips can be applied to any car purchase, car-specific buying guides can give you even more in-depth information on what to look for. No two models are 100 per cent identical, and each can come with their own faults, so knowing exactly what to look for in a car could save you from a bad buy.
10. A second opinion
There can be a lot of emotion involved in buying a car. A sense of excitement about your new purchase may cloud your judgement, though, and may result in you glossing over faults. Having a second opinion from someone you trust, whether a close friend or, ideally, a professional mechanic, could make you think more clearly about a purchase.
The used car market is a crowded, confusing place at times. Although time-consuming, doing your research could pay off in the long run.