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Used Car buying Checklist

1. Set a budget and stick to it!

2. Make a list of questions to ask before going to buy the car – then record the answers and ask the seller to sign and date the document.

3. Always check the car's registration document (V5) to validate ownership and accuracy of the vehicle’s age and mileage. Does the condition of the car reflect its stated age and mileage?

4. Check that the engine/chassis numbers match the documentation.

5. Test drive the car - but ensure that appropriate insurance is obtained.

6. Don’t rely on the MOT as evidence of a car's condition.

7. Check beneath the bonnet and boot for oil leaks, welds, untidy seams or other evidence of accident repairs. Does the colour and texture of the paintwork match all over and are the lights and electrics in working order?

8. Check for rust and paint bubbles particularly on the sills, wheel arches, seams, door bottoms and suspension mountings.

9. The interior of a car can tell you a lot. A badly worn interior can indicate a high mileage.

10. Buy a vehicle status check to see whether it’s been stolen, has been written off or has outstanding finance and get an independent vehicle examination to check it’s mechanically sound!

Test drive tips

1. Avoid looking at a car in the dark. Make sure you can see the car you may end up buying clearly.

2. If you don’t know a lot about cars, take someone knowledgeable with you who can advise you.

3. Before buying any car, and especially a used car it is important to check its condition thoroughly and test it out on the road, and ask yourself a few questions:
- how does it feel on the road?
- do the brakes provide smooth and reassuring braking?
- is the car quiet, or are there rattles and clunks when it is moving?

4. If you are serious about buying, find out if the car has a current MOT certificate. If the car is more than three years old, it must have one, to prove it complied with the criteria of the MOT at the last test date.

5. Remember that the MOT is not a guarantee that any subsequent faults will be put right by the dealer.

6. A full service history should ensure that the vehicle has been properly looked after. It might be an idea to check that the mileage is warranted in writing to avoid potential problems in the future.

7. Mileage can be checked, for a small fee.

8. Ask to see the registration document and service record. Does everything match up? Does the logbook show how many owners the car has had?

Inspecting the car's... exterior

1. Check the underside for signs of rust, and welding. Any mysterious welding could signify that the car is a ‘cut and shut’.

2. Check the exhaust system.

3. Check the bodywork and fittings.

4. Ensure that all tyres including the spare have the correct tread (1.6mm or more) and pressure.

5. Paintwork should be in a good condition.

6. Make sure no panels are a slightly different shade, or rippled, uneven, or heavily chipped by stones.

7. Check all locks are in working order.

8. Make sure rubber seals are intact, as leaks can be expensive to rectify.

9. Windscreen wipers, and doors sills should also be checked.

Inspecting the car's... interior

1. Seatbelts should be free from damage.

2. Carpets can hide high mileage; does the condition compare with the mileage and age of the car?

3. Milometer, dashboard instruments and pedal condition should also be checked


Inspecting the car's... engine

1. Check the condition and amount of oil. An oil leak could be a sign of age.

2. Check fuel lines are intact. If they are split, or not fitted correctly highly flammable fuel could spill onto the hot engine.

3. Check the coolant level. An engine that is not being efficiently cooled could be seriously damaged on a long journey, especially in hot weather.

4. Check the colour of the water in the radiator.

5. The radiator itself should be free of leaks and the hoses free from damage.

6. Listen for unusual sounds, such as clunks and rattles. A screeching noise is often a sign of a slipping fan belt, but it should be easy and inexpensive to fix.

7. If engines are eally of no interest to you, and you do not trust your own judgement, the major motoring organisations offer inspection services for a fee.


Making the transaction

1. When you buy from a reputable dealer, the car’s financial history should have been checked to show there are no outstanding hire purchase agreements on it and there is neither an insurance total loss, nor has it been stolen.

2. Prospective buyers should make sure that this is the case: ‘Ask the dealer for written proof that the check has been made.’

3. Private buyers can also check the history of a used car for free by acquiring the appropriate form from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

4. Buyers should always be careful when parting with their money. Before entering into any finance agreement, accepting any warranty or indeed accepting a used car, make sure you read and understand all the documentation before signing them or handing over any cash.

5. If the dealer has arranged the finance agreement whereby you purchase the used vehicle and he refuses to deal with a subsequent complaint, your claim will be against the finance company, which in turn will claim from the dealer. Remember not to stop your repayments.

6. It is important to remember used cars need to have been looked after. When buying a used car, it is best to buy from a reputable garage. Main dealers and independents that belong to the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) are bound by the conditions of their membership to provide a good service to their customers.

Good luck with your new or used car.


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