Buying a car

If you are about to buy a second hand car and want to make sure you are getting a good deal, there are a lot of things you should be aware of. Checking the car is essential to make sure you are not being ripped off, but if you can't take a mechanic with you, there are some basic checks you can carry out yourself.

Searching for a car

Before you begin your search, you need to consider the following:

  • Your budget
    Think about how much you want to spend on a car. Don’t go over your budget as any extra cash you have will be useful to set aside for insurance costs and any repairs that may crop up.
  • What you need
    Consider what it is that you actually need from a car. How many seats do you need? What do you want it for? What will the running costs be? How big do you need the boot to be?
  • Do your research
    Once you have set a budget and know what you need from a car, start your research. Work out what car you can afford that meets your need and is the best value.
  • Is it petrol or diesel?
    Depending on your annual mileage, your choice of fuel could save you even more over the course of a year. If you drive over 12,000 miles a year, a diesel car is more economical.
  • Check the Mileage
    Although buying a car with a low mileage is advisable, beware of anything with a low mileage for its age. If you are concerned the mileage might be wrong, check the wear and tear on the car compared to the mileage or check MOT certificates and documentation for mileage readings. If you are still unsure then don’t buy.
  • Part-exchanging your car
    If you are going to part-exchange your car, work out how much it is worth and whether you are going to part-exchange or sell privately. If you are going to buy your new car at a dealership, don’t mention a part-exchange unless you have found the car you want to buy. Sell your car with We Want Any Car and you will also receive cashback.
  • Check insurance quotes
    Before you go and look at a car, compare quotes for insurance online. There’s no point going to look at a car if you can’t afford the insurance. You can compare quotes with plus get cashback.
  • Check on the cost of road tax for the vehicle
    The more fuel efficient the car, the less road tax you’ll have to pay.

If you have found a car you want to view, work out how much the car is worth and what it will cost to run with the Money Advice Service’s cost calculator.

Inspecting the car

Once you have chosen a car you want to look at and have arranged a time with the seller, you can then inspect the car to decide if you want to purchase. Some helpful tips to decide if you want to buy include:

  • Viewing conditions
    Always view the car in daylight and dry weather if possible to make it easier to spot any damage. This way you can have a good look at the car.
  • Documentation
    Ask to see any relevant documentation such as service history, MOT certificates and registration details.
  • Damage
    Check the car for any visible damage such as dents and scratches. If the car has seat covers, check for any damages to the seats as this could prove costly.
  • Test drive
    Taking the car for a test drive will allow you to find out if the car is comfortable to drive as well as check for any mechanical faults.
  • Under the bonnet
    Checking under the bonnet after a test drive should reveal problems such as an oil leak. If you can, take a mechanic with you and they will be able to give the car a thorough check for any mechanical faults. AA members can get a vehicle inspection from £128.
  • History check
    Get a car history check to find out whether the car has any outstanding finance or has been stolen or written off. You can also get this service from the AA from as little as £6 per car. There are a lot of websites that offer a similar service but remember to read the small print as some can be quite pricey and tie you in to extended services.

Buying the car

  • Agree a price
    Make sure you have researched the price of similar cars to ensure you are getting a good deal. Once you know what the car is worth, haggle with the owner. Start your price low and then work up to agree a price with the seller.
  • Receipt
    Once you have agreed a price and paid, get a receipt from the seller stating vehicle details, price paid, and the sellers details.
  • Insurance
    If you have already compared quotes for the car, you will have a good idea of the price it will cost to insure. If you are happy with a deal you have found, purchase insurance before you drive away. If you want to continue to search for better deals then it would be a good idea to get short term insurance that allows you to drive the car away. Receive cashback when you book short term car insurance with Insure 4 A Day.
  • Ensure it has road tax and check when it expires.
  • Check the length of the remaining MOT as if it runs out soon this could help you negotiate a better price from the seller.

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