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Last update : November 2013
11 Tips For Buying a Second Hand Car
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1. Initial homework - Find out about the car you are considering. Check out any known mechanical problems with that model.

The consumer magazine Which! offers good long term reviews on cars. Which! offers a 1-month trial for just £1.

2. Current prices - Check out the current second hand value for the car. A good place to start is www.whatcar.com. Also get your local paper and some of the specialist second hand car magazines and look up the prices of similar cars.

3. Running costs - Plenty of costs in relation to running a car, including -

  • Insurance - do a quick check on the internet. Also do a search for the car's 'insurance band' which will be quoted between 1-20, 20 being the most expensive
  • Road tax - is the car currently taxed, if so when does it run out. Cars are now taxed depending on CO2 emissions - check here
  • General running costs - fuel economy, servicing, tyres etc. Use the guides on www.whatcar.com and Which! Cars to get a good idea

4. Proper documentation - When looking at the car insist on seeing the registration documentation, the MOT certificate (if more than 3 years old) and any other paperwork relating the car.

  • Chassis number - sometimes called the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). It will appear on both the Log book and on a metal plate under the bonnet. Make sure both match and the metal plate hasn't been tampered with around the edges
  • Registration address - Make sure you view the car at its registration address. If this is not possible you should be extremely suspicious
  • Service records - the more paperwork the better as this shows if the car has been regularly maintained. If a service record is not available has the owner kept any of the service or repair bills?
  • Any Finance on the car - Ask the owner if the car has outstanding finance. Take notes of what he or she says. When you get home check out the information with RAC Vehicle Status Check. Current cost is £9.99 and its well worth it. If the car has finance on it, forget buying it and look for another
5. Ask a knowledgeable friend - It's not always possible but if you have a friend who knows about cars, especially mechanics, then take them along and see what they say.
6. Examine the car in daylight - Carefully examine the car in good daylight. Look for signs of repairs and accident damage. Use scratches and other accident related damage to bargain down the price.
7. Is the mileage legitimate - Make sure the car hasn't been clocked. The average mileage is around 12,000 per year so be wary if the general wear and tear doesn't add up to the mileage.

Look specifically at the wear on the pedals and the surrounding driving mat. Also look at the tyres, if they need to be replaced soon (within 5,000 miles) factor that into the price you bid the owner.

8. Test drive - Always test-drive the car for at least 10 miles but make sure you're insured to drive it - check with your current policy.
9. Independent inspection - If you're still interested in the car think hard about getting it independently inspected. Both the AA and RAC offer an inspection service for between £100 - £300 depending on whether you're a member and what car it is.

For example, a Ford Fiesta will be far cheaper than a Range Rover. Another idea is to take it down to your local garage and see what they say. If it was me I'd take the AA's quote and then offer the garage half.

10. Before handing over the money - Never hand over any money until you have seen the results of the RAC Vehicle Status Check. And even then don't pay the present owner until you have all the Documents relating to the car. Plus, get a written receipt for the car which includes the sellers name and address.
11. Valid insurance - Finally, make sure you have insurance in place from the minute you drive the car away.
See also
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