The Essential Checklist for Buying a Used Car
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The Essential Checklist for Buying a Used Car

How often do you spot a good deal on a used car on Autotrader or similar websites?

Well, as the saying goes, if it sounds good to be true, it probably is and saving some money on the initial cost might end up costing you much more in unexpected repairs down the line.

What’s more, when buying a second-hand motor, you don’t have the same legal protection as buying a brand new car; so you’ll need to be sure you ask the right questions and check the vehicle properly before buying. Here are some essential checks to carry out before you commit to buying a used car:

Essential Documents to Check for When Buying a Used Car

There are a number of different documents you should endeavour to see when purchasing a used car, some of which are essential for legal reasons. If you are concerned about the seller withholding information or not being honest, you’re best bet is to walk away.

  • V5C registration document – Also known as a ‘log book’, this hold details of who the car is registered to. You will need this document in order to tax the vehicle (any outstanding tax expires when purchasing a new vehicle).
  • Service History – If the seller has advertised the car with a ‘full-service history’, ensure that all documents are actually present.
  • Most recent MOT certificate – Look for any advisors, these will most likely need to be fixed when you take the car in for its first MOT as the new owner.
  • Finance Documents – If the car was bought through finance, ensure the seller can provide you with a statement from their finance provider indicating that any outstanding money owed has been paid off.
  • Receipts – This is something that is often overlooked in private sales but without a receipt, there is no proof that you actually purchased the car and for how much. Ensure a receipt is created for both buyer and seller including full details of the transaction.

Autocare Tip: you can use the free vehicle enquiry service provided by GOV.UK to double check that the details the seller has provided are correct. We also recommend running a vehicle check to ascertain whether the car is written off or stolen; this costs £8.99.

DVLA Car Checking Tax and MOT Tool

Condition Inspection of a Used Car

Much like online dating profiles, pictures of cars online usually only show their best sides. Before rushing into a sale, be sure to go and check out the car in person beforehand – keep an eye out for the following:

  • Uneven paint finish – This could be concealing botched bodywork or rust
  • Mismatched colours – This can indicate that the car has been through extensive repairs
  • Tyres – If the tread looks worn you could be needing new tyres soon. Take a look at our guide to taking care of your tyres for more information
  • Dents and Scratches – Small bodywork defects that weren’t mentioned in the advert can be used to negotiate the price down
  • Chips in the windscreen – Small chips in the windscreen can develop into cracks, they can be a cause of MOT failure as well
  • Upholstery – Upholstery repairs are another thing that can soon add up. Take note of any stains, tears and bad smells when inspecting the interior of the car

Performance Inspection of a Used Car

A test drive is essential when buying a second-hand car. Whilst you may already be sold on the look of the car, try not to hold any bias when inspecting its performance during the test drive. Remember to check these essentials when testing the car:

  1. Does the central locking system work?
  2. Does the car start without any juddering?
  3. Do any warning light remain illuminated after starting the car?
  4. Does the car make any unusual noises when starting up?
  5. Do all the minor controls work (lights, windscreen wipers, air con, radio etc)
  6. Do all the windows and doors open and close properly?
  7. Does the clutch feel unusual when changing gear?
  8. Do the brakes function as expected?
  9. Is the steering smooth?

Car Maintenance, Repair and Servicing Chepstow

At Autocare, we can provide a full maintenance service for your second hand (or new) car. Whether it’s a routine checkup and MOT, or you are experiencing a problem, we can help. Give us a call today on 01291 627 137.


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