How to buy a second hand car

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. It is important to arrange to view a private sale at the sellers 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

Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

Check for damage

Look out for any rust, uneven gaps between body panels or mismatched paint. 

The Test Drive


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!