Used Cars: The Definitive Checklist For Buying A Second-Hand Motor

Sales of used cars have spiked due to declining interest in public transport. But it’s important to be able to discern between scrap and worthy investments. Here’s a definitive used car checklist…

Where Should You Buy Used Cars?

When it comes to used cars, buyers have a choice between dealers, independent garages and private sellers. Each has potential benefits and drawbacks, and it’s important to be aware of each.

Main Dealers – Dealers, as you might expect, will almost always be the most rigorous and trustworthy when it comes to used car transactions. They’re accountable, after all, and have specific procedures in place to make purchases as seamless as possible. The downside is that their prices tend to be significantly higher than those found at independent garages. They represent a trade-off, you pay more for increased peace of mind.

Independent Garages – Independent garages range in size but, generally, they represent the middle-ground of the used car market. Their vehicles will probably be too old for main dealers to consider – but they’ll probably be better than ‘bargain bangers’. Given that they’re businesses, there’s still accountability (except in extreme cases). Just don’t expect them to be as rigorous as main dealers.

Private Sellers – Buying a used car from a private seller is the riskiest option. There’s no point denying it. They could, after all, be anyone. But it’s also a good one of getting your hands on a car quickly, without lengthy conversations with a salesman and lots of paperwork to sign. In addition, you’ll probably find the cheapest prices come from private sellers. Making them the best bet if you’re after a real bargain. Just remember to meet them somewhere safe, to check their paperwork thoroughly (more on that shortly) and not to part with any money before you know everything is kosher.

What Should You Check During A Viewing?

When you view a used car, there are certain things you should check regardless of where the viewing is taking place…

Tyres – Tyres are expensive, so a used car with worn tyres should come with a reduce price-tag. Take a look at the tread depth of each tyre whilst examining them for any signs of wear or damage. The legal tread depth is 1.6mm, so factor in the cost of replacing the tyres before sealing the deal.

Dents And Scratches – These go without saying. Ask the owner of the vehicle whether they’re aware of any scratches or dents on the car’s bodywork. Then take a thorough, 360 inspection of the vehicle; inspecting each panel. Any damage should be reflected in the price.

Panel Gaps – Large panel gaps are indicative of sloppy repair work. Aesthetically, this can be irritating. But really large gaps can even be dangerous. Consider them a major warning sign.

Electrics – Always take the time to test a used car’s electrics. Make sure the radio, windows and air conditioning are all operational.

Upholstery – It’s easily overlooked, but make sure the car’s upholstery is to standard. Look carefully for tears and stains in seats. In addition, make sure there aren’t any foul odours. Tobacco can linger for months and is very difficult to remove.

Glass – A single chip in the windscreen could quickly become a crack, meaning it’ll need to be replaced. If it’s covering the driver’s line of sight, it could also mean an instant fail during an MOT.

Which Documents Should You Ask For?

When you’re ready to purchase a used car, it’s crucial that you ask for proper documentation. The most important document is a V5C, also known as a ‘registration document’ or ‘logbook’. Make sure that the car model and registration plate match up with what it details. You should also check the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), as specified in the logbook, matches with the number on the windscreen. The V5 will also specify how many previous owners the vehicle has had; multiple owners over a short period could be a red light.

If you’re buying the car from a private seller, it’s crucial that you check that the name of the registered owner is the same as the person you’re dealing with. Otherwise, it could be stolen.

How Should You Pay For It?

This really depends on where you’re buying your used cars. It’ll rarely matter at main dealers or reputable independent garages. After all, there’s accountability and a financial trail. Some will even offer finance deals, allowing you to spread out the overall cost – although they’re unlikely to be as appealing as they are when attached to new cars. If you use a cheque or transfer, the seller is unlikely to hand over the car until the transaction has been completed. Regardless, make sure you absolutely happy with the vehicle (and the seller) before handing over a penny. No matter how good a used car seems, make sure to get a second opinion and assess your options.

Overall, try to avoid using cash if you can and only pay if you’re absolutely confident that the car is what you’re looking for. If you must use cash, make sure you meet private sellers somewhere public and during daylight; carrying large amounts of cash can make you a target for criminals. In addition, it’s always wise to ask for a receipt no matter how you’re buying a car.

Here’s How You’re Accidentally Devaluing Your Car –

Car Thefts Have Risen By 56% In Just Four Years –

The Autoserve Club can save you time, money and stress. Club Members can receive discounts on servicing and new tyres and will gain access to our professional 24/7 helpline. To learn more, contact our friendly Service Advisers on 0121 521 3500 today.

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