Top ten tips for buying a used car

While the used car market is highly accessible, it can also be difficult to wrap your head around all the options out there and pick the best for you.

Furthermore, there are several pitfalls regarding used car purchases which everyone should be aware of to avoid being left short-changed.

Whether you’re buying a used car for the first time or you’ve done it before, there are plenty of things to keep in mind which can save you time, money and potential bother.

Here are ten useful tips for buying a used car in the UK.

Identify a trusted source for buying

You can buy a used car from either a private seller or a dealership. It is always preferable when searching for a used car in Britain to visit a reputable trader, such as Perrys Used Cars search for instance.

While there are plenty of trustworthy used car sellers in the UK, there are also many devious ones who will try and con you from a purchase if you’re not careful.

There are numerous methods which people may try when selling a used car to rip people off. You can learn more about these tricks in our top ten car scams guide.

Know the laws and rights covering your purchase

Whether you’re buying a used car privately, at a dealership or online, there are numerous UK laws which can cover you if a purchase turns out wrong.

Just how much protection you have when buying a used car depends on the method chosen. You’ll be better protected if you go through a recognised dealership (whether that’s online or at the site itself).

On the other hand the only terms that cover a private sale contract are that it must match the description given by the seller. A used car must also be roadworthy before purchase and a private seller must have the right to sell the vehicle in question.

For more information you can read our guide on your rights after buying a faulty car. You can also read more about your rights when buying a car on the internet.

Compare the prices from different sellers

When looking at a particular used car, how can you be sure the price is reflective of its real value? A good way to get perspective on this point is to find similar models to the one you’re considering offered by other dealers and compare prices.

You could end up finding just what you’re looking for elsewhere, at a more affordable price compared to the first place you looked.

Inspect the car thoroughly

When you come to view your potential used car purchase in the metal, don’t be afraid to look over both the exterior and interior in fine detail.

Keep an eye out for anything which looks damaged or out of place, whether it is misaligned panels, mismatched colours, scratches, rust etc.

Check the car’s service history

In all probability a used car has had some service work even during just one year of ownership. A car a few years old or more will likely have raked quite a few garage bills in its history.

It’s worth enquiring the owner of a used car he or she is selling regarding the vehicle service history. Consider if the details of the car’s history highlights any persistent faults which could cause you problems in the future. If the seller of a used car reports no history then you should ask.

Ask for important vehicle documents

When viewing a used car available to buy, ask to see the V5C vehicle registration document. This shows the registered keeper of the car and not the legal owner. With this you can determine whether the person selling you the car is also the present keeper.

Also check if the car has a currently valid MOT certificate. If the vehicle is over three years old then it should come with a continuous series of annual MOT certificates.

You can use the vehicle’s registration number and the document reference on the V5C to check a vehicle’s MOT status and history online dating back to 2005. This can be done by visiting the gov.uk website.

On a further note, make sure inside the used car it has its handbook inside as these are expensive to replace. The handbook will contain important information and instructions for the vehicle you’re viewing.

Make the most out of the test drive

The test drive is the only real opportunity you’ll get to determine the general mechanical state of the vehicle you may be buying.

Try and spend at least 15 minutes test driving the car and take in different types of roads. Make sure you can get comfortable inside the car and that the child seats fit if required. While testing keep a general observation as to the way the car operates, and if it struggles in any sort of area.

For further guidance you can read our tips for taking a test drive guide

Check insurance quotes and tax rates

You should definitely establish early on what budget you have for getting a used car. This shouldn’t just take into account buying the vehicle itself but also ownership and running costs.

Work out how much you’ll be paying by reading up on the car’s insurance group number and Road Tax band. Knowing the fuel economy of the vehicle will also help you calculate what you’ll be paying in fuel costs in addition.

Don’t feel pressured into buying

It shouldn’t be forgotten that whatever used car you’re looking at, you are never under obligation to buy.

If the car you’re looking at doesn’t feel right for you then you can always back out and find an alternative. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by the seller because at the end of the day you’re buying a used car to benefit yourself and nobody else.

Sort all the paperwork before parting with cash

The paperwork surrounding a vehicle and its purchase is always essential and should never be neglected.

Check all paperwork regarding a car’s information and history is genuine and not fake. Cars over three years old should be supplied with a valid MOT certificate when bought. Upon purchasing a used car, check that a receipt is written by the seller to both of you.

The vehicle’s receipt should include details of the vehicle, its price, terms of sale and the seller’s details.

Also complete the new keeper parts of the V5C logbook and these details are sent to the DVLA.