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Essential checks when buying a used car

For many, buying a used car can feel like navigating through a financial minefield. Make a wrong decision and sooner or later it could cost you dearly. Fortunately with the correct guidance and knowledge you can avoid potential time bombs and save yourself money. If you wish to learn the simple but essential tips for buying used cars then see the four main aspects below.


It is highly beneficial to conduct basic market research before even viewing the vehicle. Even spending as little as 10 minutes searching through online classified ads can give confidence in the market value of the particular car. The key points to compare will be the mileage, age, engine size and fuel type. Once you have become familiar with how similar cars are currently priced you will be in a far better position when negotiating with the seller. It may become appropriate to mention to the seller how their asking price compares to the market, if it works in your favour of course.

Visual checks

Once you are standing in front of the vehicle then naturally the first checks to perform will be visual. Check the car as thoroughly as you can, taking your time to examine it from top to bottom. You should be paying attention to the paintwork and condition of the bodywork. Look for dents, scratches, paint fading, panel misalignment and corrosion. Slight imperfections may give you leverage to negotiate on price. Major damages or paintwork mismatches could indicate previous crash repairs. Look underneath the car with a torch if possible, it may be dirty but check for excessive corrosion or leaks.

Condition of the tyre should always be checked. You should be looking at the depth of the tread and sidewalls for any marks or damage. Uneven tyre wear would suggest either the tracking/alignment for the vehicle is out or the vehicle has been driven aggressively. Bear in mind that replacing tyres can become quite costly, as it depends on the size and profile of the tyres fitted.

Paper work

The paper work and history for a used car is incredibly useful to potential buyers. Buying a used car with little or no paperwork is always a complete gamble. It could easily end in financial disaster further down the road.  This could quite easily disguise potential landmines such as previous write offs, cut-and-shuts, stolen or clocked mileage vehicles.

A full service history will prove that the car has been looked after and maintained correctly during its life. Therefore a full service history is always preferred. Used Car Warranties may also be available when buying a used car from trade or dealerships. Warranty conditions will vary, but generally they will give you the peace of mind that problems arising soon after purchase will be rectified.

Test drive

Once you have worked your way through all other checks, then it’s time for the test drive. But you must check you are legally covered if you are going to be driving on public roads. Often car insurance policies will include certain conditions which allow you to drive other cars with the owner’s permission – always remember to check with your insurer first.

Safely put the car through its paces, trying to utilise it fully. You should individually focus on the feeling and performance of the steering, engine and brakes. Test every electronic device you can find such as wipers, windows, horn, lights, etc. Remain vigilant the whole time for noises or any odd behaviour from the car. Finally, bear in mind that viewing a number of cars before making a purchase will allow you to make a more informed decision as you compare  them.

published: 04/04/2014 16:02:20

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