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How to buy a second hand car


1st Jan 2015 Managing your Money

How to buy a second hand car
Buying a second hand car can be the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to own your ideal vehicle. It can also be a risky venture. Learn how to ensure you’re getting the best possible value.
With more choice than ever before, owing to the popularity in online trades and sales, choosing a second hand car can be a bewildering process. Set aside some time to think about what it is you want and need from the vehicle. Consider what it will be used for, how many people it will carry on a regular basis, the distance of your commute and the prices for fuel, tax, insurance, services and repairs. 
When you contact the seller of the car this can reveal a lot of valuable information, depending on whether you ask the right questions.
You need to know all about the car, its past, its current condition, when its MOT is due and what work it has previously had done. Free websites like carcheckexperts.co.uk check all of these for free by just typing in the registration plate so it is a handy tool to use just to double-check what the seller is saying. It is important to arrange to view a private sale at the seller's own premises and this should always be in daylight, with the main reason being that it is easier to spot any damage.
You don’t need to be an expert in order to inspect a second hand car, but there are a few golden rules:

Obtain a car history

Check to discover whether the car is stolen, has been written off or if it has any outstanding finance. 

Examine the vehicles documents

MOT certificates, service history and logbook.

Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

VIN can be found at the base of the windscreen, stamped into the chassis by the drivers seat and under the bonnet. Ensure that the VIN matches the one recorded in the cars documents. 

Check for damage

Look out for any rust, uneven gaps between body panels or mismatched paint. 
Never feel awkward, rude or like you’re a hindrance when making these vital checks. You’re about to part with a large sum of money and if the seller is genuine they will fully understand this. 

The Test Drive

Test driving the car is highly important, it may look perfect but there could be underlying issues only detectable once on the road. A test drive should last for at least 15 minutes and cover different types of roads. It is best to start the car when the engine is cold and listen out for unusual noises or any other problems as the vehicle starts, such as excessive smoke or a long delay. Once on the road, check the steering, suspension, gears and brakes whilst keeping an ear out for any unusual noises. 


If you’re happy with the car after all the checks, now is the time to haggle! It is common practice for buyers to make an offer on the car so don’t be afraid to try and get the best price. For a successful haggle you should firstly know what the car is worth and secondly what you’re willing to pay. The seller will have given their top price, so go in with your lowest bid and hope to meet somewhere in the middle - a service or tank of fuel can be a good negotiating tool. 
If you leave the sale with a car, ensure that you also leave with a receipt from the seller and all of the cars documents. Complete the new keeper parts in the logbook and don’t delay in sending this to the DVLA!