The Essential Guide to Buying a Used Car – Part 3

In the third part of our guide to buying a used car we look at what you should do when going to see cars that you are interested in. Knowing what you should ask and what to look for can save you in the long run.

Going To See The Car

This usually starts with a phone call to book an appointment, either with a salesperson in a dealer or with a private seller. Ask any deal breaker questions you have at this stage so you don’t waste any time.

The best time to look at a car is during the day when it is dry. Try to avoid night time viewings and, where possible, when it is raining. This is because rain and poor light can mask scratches and other imperfections.

If you have the registration of the car you should run it through an online car checking service. You will be charged a small fee but the check will find out if the car has been written off before, or if there is outstanding finance on it.

When going to view the car don’t bring children but do bring someone with you, particularly if you don’t know much about cars.

What To Look For

Here are some items you should check are with the car:

  • Vehicle Licensing Certificate
  • NCT certificate
  • Vehicle handbook – you can buy a replacement if there isn’t one, but they can be costly.
  • Adaptors for removing locking wheel nuts
  • Jack, tyre iron and spare tyre, if applicable
  • Two keys as replacement keys can be costly

You should also check the mileage to see if it matches the advertised mileage. Check the service history too. The best service history is one where each service is carried out by an official dealer for that make of car. If a car has this history you will find official stamps in the hand book or service log book. Check that the servicing was done at the right intervals – either miles or time, whichever came first.

Next you need to check the overall condition of the car. This includes looking over the bodywork trying to spot scratches, dents or signs of a repair. Check that everything works, including all the buttons and dials.

Also, check for wear and tear to see if it matches the age of the car and the mileage. Areas you should check are the steering wheel, gear stick and driver’s seat – does the wear you see in these areas match what you would expect.

Check the tyres too. This is probably not a deal breaker, but it is always best to know if you will need to replace them within a short period of time.

Finally, go for a test drive. Listen for strange noises and odd driving behaviour, and check that everything works as it should. Also, make sure you like the car.

Doing The Deal

When buying from a dealer you will usually find the sales people to be highly professional, particularly if you go to a franchised dealership. Buying privately can be a different story. In those situations, don’t feel pressured into buying anything. If it doesn’t feel right, or you are not 100 percent sure, walk away. You will be told the car might be gone when you come back, and that might be true. It is always better to make a decision you are comfortable with though. Also, make decisions based on your needs. Don’t feel pressured by any stories of woe told to you by the seller.

Finally, you should always haggle. Sometimes it doesn’t work as the seller might already have cut the price to its lowest point, but it often does.

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