10 things to check while buying used car

It has been said that one in three used cars that are sold still have issues or problems with them that can cause untold issues for the unsuspecting purchaser (“New Statistics Confirm Car Buying Dangers”, Motor Trade Insider, September 2009). Whether this be outstanding finance, licence plate changes, or even decreasing speedometers, there are many dangers when purchasing a used or second-hand car which can easily be avoided if the purchaser knows what to look for.

10 things to check while buying used car

This article details many common faults or problems with used cars so a potential purchaser can identify a fraudulent or problematic vehicle before it is too late, along with what the purchaser can do to avoid future troubles.

Things That You Should Do When Buying a Used Car

Do Your Homework. When buying a second-hand vehicle, do research of the type of car required and any recurring mechanical issues that may arise, and what average running costs are.
Research Prices. There are various websites available that will give realistic prices for the model of car being sought after, so the purchaser knows what they should be paying.
Look at Insurance. Check how much car insurance will cost on the model you desire.
Insist on Documentation. Make sure that you see the car at the owner’s home or business premises. Check all documentation, including MOT certificates, and match chassis numbers to the car. Insist on seeing all Service Records.
Check the Tax Disc. Ensure that the registration number on the tax disc matches the car and that the tax is in date.
Take a Friend. Ask a close friend to join you when visiting the car; he or she can provide valuable knowledge and advice and assist in negotiation.
Visit the Car During the Day. This will show up any dents, scratches or marks clearly.
Check Wear and Tear. Look at the tyres and pedals for signs of wear and tear, and ensure that the mileage on the clock looks conducive with the state of the car. Thoroughly check the car for rust, damp spots, and so on. A car in poor condition should start ringing alarm bells.
Get it Independently Inspected. This will provide peace of mind and bring any issues to light.
Test Drive the Car. The seller should have no problem with this if there is nothing to hide. Whilst on the drive, be sure to test the brakes, assess the clutch, and check the transmission for signs of disrepair.
Become Insured. The police can impound and scrap the car if the new driver is not insured.

buying used car

Missing any or all of these points could prove incredibly costly, with replacement car parts priced at anywhere up to and exceeding £1,000. It is therefore imperative that the car, along with all documentation, is thoroughly checked.

Buying a Fast Used Car in a Declining Market

A faltering financial market and a growing pressure on car manufacturers to produce smaller, more efficient vehicles mean that people are significantly downgrading their cars. Where the roads were full of 3 litre BMW’s, they are now humming to the tune of the electrically driven Prius and the diesel chug of the Polo BlueMotion.

So what does this mean for the budding petrolhead with an empty driveway? Certainly not a new economic super-mini, whose value is now holding up quite nicely, but a big-engined, fat tyred, bhp machine. The market is being swamped with high spec machinery and here is the chance to get a piece of it.

The following examples of types of performance vehicles available give an idea of the depreciation they are currently suffering, and therefore the saving in your pocket, starting with the old favorite, the hot hatch. What with shopping car usability and scruff-of-the-neck fun factor, coupled with reasonable fuel economy and running costs, the hot hatch fits the bill nicely, and the second-hand market is overloaded with them.

Hot Hatches

Remember, for someone to buy a high spec car brand new they must be earning a reasonable salary, which probably means they need their car as part of their job and may travel a large number of miles. Now that belts are being tightened, owning a fast car is no longer a sensible option to them and so it must be sold and replaced. Multiply this scenario by several hundred times and what ensues is a market flooded with hot hatches. This is good for second-hand buyers.

buying used car

A quick glance across the web sees prices of a few months old well-specced hot hatch toppled by around 15-20% compared to the 5-10% that would have been seen a year or so ago. This makes a hot hatch a very tempting buy for someone who wants a nearly-new, warrantied car with enough pace to keep them entertained.

Hot hatches are all very well for someone young and outgoing, but if four doors, luxury interior, all the toys, and supercar pace are required, performance saloons can offer some serious thrills for a vastly reduced sum.

Performance Saloons

Older vehicles have been devalued by their younger siblings, and the credit crunch has further reduced these prices. A car that cost over £50,000 can now be picked up for £14,000. Be aware that, as an older vehicle, care and attention will be required in picking a car. High-powered cars need high tolerance parts, and years of heavy acceleration can prematurely wear them out.

Higher mileage will also mean that the car is closer to more expensive services, which will be dearer in comparison to an average car of the same age. Nonetheless, if the research is done, a good car can be bought for a bargain price.

Newer models are also suffering. Current models that command a price tag of over £60,000 can be found for almost a third of that price for a model a few years old with reasonable mileage. High spec, high power vehicle values are severely suffering at the hands of the recession.


Unfortunately for the more focused petrolhead, sporty two-seaters do not seem to be taking as much of a hit as the other vehicles mentioned. Because of the low manufacturing numbers, the rarity can help stabilise their value, making them less of a bargain.

Overall, for someone in the right position, this financial pickle can be a fantastic opportunity to pick up a car that a few years ago was quite out of reach. Every cloud has a silver lining!

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