Research is the key when buying a good used car

dodgyTen things you really should consider if you are buying a second-hand car writes Geraldine Herbert

Buying a used car is a minefield of potential problems but whether you buy a car from a dealer or a private seller, has a noticeable effect on satisfaction levels. According to a recent survey by the AA, a third of those who bought a used car within the last 5 years were not entirely happy with their purchase. Of those who were dissatisfied the most common reasons specified were a tusanimi of repair bills that incurred and the overall reliability of the vehicle. Poor after sales service by the seller, suspected fraud, condition of the vehicle and poor fuel efficiency also featured as reasons for this dissatisfaction.

Buying a used car shouldn’t be a leap of faith. Here are our top tips to keep in mind when shopping for a used car

1. Mileage
Check this against the most recent MOT cert. The interior of a car can also reveal a lot, carpets in particular can hide very high mileages. Does the condition compare with the mileage and age of the car? Other tell-tale signs include worn-out upholstery but window winders and locks, wipers, dashboard instruments, pedal condition and door sills should also be checked.

2. Bodywork

Dirt could be hiding scratches, dents, rust or shoddy repairs. Look underneath the car too for any signs of rust or damage. Paintwork should be in a good condition, the same colour and consistent all over. Make sure all the panels line up correctly and that none are a different shade, uneven, or heavily chipped by stones.

3. Engine
If you’re not buying a show car and the engine bay is clean be very wary! There’s a good chance it’s been cleaned to hide a leak or some other problem. Check the oil, coolant and other fluid levels and open the oil cap to check the condition of the oil.

4. Tyres

Have a look at the tread depth as well as the general condition of the tyres including the spare. Uneven wear can signal suspension issues or if they are just generally worn it may be a sign of a car that hasn’t been properly looked after.

5. Electrics & Doors

Make sure everything is working as it should – turn on the air conditioning or fans at full. Open and close all locks, doors and windows and keep an eye out for any signs of water leaks, paint on door rubbers, windows or uneven door shuts.

6. Service History
Ask for a full service history this way you will know what kind of maintenance and repairs were done. Also check the registration document and service record – does everything match up?

7. Price

Do some research to determine if you are being asked to pay a fair price. Search online for cars of the same age, condition, mileage and those with similar extras. Remember there are a number of other factors that will determine the value of a car including equipment, such as electric windows, alloys, air conditioning, seat heaters, sat nav, rarity of model, number of previous owners and Service History. The price will also vary depending on whether you are buying privately or from a dealer

8. Test Drive
Ask for at least half an hour’s drive and take a route that will take in town, open roads and, if possible, a motorway. If buying privately, make sure in advance your insurance will cover you for the drive. A dealer should provide cover for test drives. Try every gear, including reverse, and test all the controls, including wipers, headlamps, heater and air conditioning. Turn the radio and air-conditioning off and open the windows to ensure there are no unusual road noise vibrations or a noisy exhaust.The engine should idle smoothly and rev evenly. You should be able to switch between gears smoothly without any grinding noises. If the clutch is too stiff or weak that could be a sign of trouble. Test the brakes, including the handbrake. After you’ve finished, lift the bonnet and check for oil or radiator leaks using a torch.

9. Check the car’s history

Check if the car has a hidden history, such as outstanding finance or been written off. Many websites offer this service for a small fee.

10. Common Sense
Finally, use your common sense, be cautious and above all don’t be afraid to walk away if you have any doubts.

Geraldine Herbert

1st February, 2018



Author: Geraldine Herbert

Motoring journalist Geraldine Herbert is the founder of wheelsforwomen. A jury member for the International Women’s World Car of the Year, she has been a motoring journalist for over ten years and is the motoring expert for Good Housekeeping Magazine and their “Women at the Wheel” section of You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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