Buying a Used Car

Documents for selling a carA used car can be just as good as a new car, and buying a used car can result in getting your ideal car far cheaper and quicker than you'd thought. Below are some pointers for buying a decent used car without any hassle.

1) Set your budget: Before embarking on your search for a quality used car, you should really work out how much money you have available to spend on it. Buying a used car may mean selling your current one first, so you should use a car valuation tool to find out how much it is worth. You will also need to decide on whether you're part-exchanging it with a dealer, or selling it privately. Our selling page can help with this. As part of your budgeting, you should also work out what your outgoings will be with your new car, and whether you can afford them. This means you should calculate what the insurance, road tax and fuel costs will be. Working out a budget will also help you decide whether you should take out any finance.

2) Choose the right car: There will be hundreds, if not thousands of used cars on the market available to you. Searching through them all to find what you want can be a painstaking process. To help shorten this, you should spend a bit of time first to work out exactly what you need from the car you're going to buy. Think what you will be using it for. How many people will you be having to carry regularly? How much money do you have to spend on things like fuel, insurance and tax?

3) Speak with the seller: The initial contacting process with a seller can prove to be a real eye-opener if you know what questions to ask. Always ask about the car's condition, such as how it runs, any recent repair work it may have had, how much is left on the MOT and tax, and any finance. You should also ask about the vehicle's past, such as how many previous owners it has had. Always try to view the car in daylight conditions, and when it isn't raining, as this makes it easier to spot any scuffs or damage.

4) Inspect the car: You shouldn't need the services of a mechanic every time you look at a used car, as there are a number of checks you can easily use yourself. Firstly, get a car history check for the car, as this will tell you whether there are any initial problems with the vehicle, such as if it has ever been written off or stolen, or has any outstanding finance. These checks are available cheaply, starting at about £5, from companies such as Experian, HPI, and iCarCheck. Along with the history check, also remember to take a look at the vehicle's documentation; it's service history, MOT certificates, and V5C (logbook). Using these makes it easy to check if the car has been clocked. You should also check the car's VIN, usually at the bottom of the windscreen, etched into the chassis, or under the bonnet. Check this VIN matches the one in the logbook, and check for any signs of tampering.

5) Take it for a test drive: This lets you get a feel for how the car handles on the road, and whether everything is working as it should be. You should drive the car for at least 15 minutes, and choose a route with different types of road. The car should always be started from cold, to check for any problems there. Keep an ear out for any squeaks or vibrations in the brakes, steering, suspension and gears. Remember, you should have proper insurance before you take a test drive.

6) Prepare to haggle: By making an offer up front, you are taking charge of the haggling process. You should have done your homework and used a car valuation service to find an approximate price for it, and keep that price in mind. You should also remember your budget, and make sure you don't go over it. Start your bids low, and let the seller do the work in getting the price up. Keep calm, and don't get confrontational if the deal isn't going the way you want. Remember, there are lots of other vehicles out there if you can't reach an agreement on price.

7) Paperwork: At the end of the buying process, paperwork is an essential part of protecting yourself, and it should be checked thoroughly. Make sure all paperwork looks original. Printouts or photocopies could easily be fakes. Make sure you've checked the vehicle's VIN and that it matches with the one in the logbook. Take a look at the service history and check that the car has has regular maintenance, and that the recorded mileage matches the one on the odometer. If you're buying a car over three years old, it should come with a valid MOT certificate. You should make sure that either you or the seller writes out a receipt for the both of you, and then fill out the form for new keepers in the logbook (V5C) and send it to the DVLA to ensure they know about the change in owner.