Second-hand cars are much cheaper than brand new ones: that is a simple fact of life and a new car can with car aircon lose up to 40% of its value in the first year. Buying used, though, can be a potential minefield of problems and you need to know a few things to avoid getting burned.
First decide the car you want to buy, of course. Decide on a budget, do your research and don’t be seduced by the first one you see. Unless you’re searching for a rare Ferrari, there will be another car that suits your needs just as well. So don’t panic buy.
Compare cars online, don’t get totally stuck on one make or model and ensure you’ve read the reports. Then decide where you’re going to buy.
If you want to play it safe, or as safe as you can when you’re buying used, then go to a dealer that has a good reputation. It helps if they’re a member of the Motor Codes regulatory body and also if they have their own system of checks. With a dealer, you do have a certain amount of protection.
With dealers, the car should be of satisfactory quality, be fit for purpose and match its description. Now these terms are debatable, but they afford you a level of safety. Steer clear of the stereotypical dodgy car dealer with ‘sold as seen’ on the window of the car, though.
If you buy privately, be doubly careful. Don’t agree to meet anywhere except the seller’s home and make sure all the details check out.
Don’t think that the dealer’s own checks should replace your own, either. Make sure you check the service history, do a HPI Check and a DVLA Online Check to make sure you buy a legitimate car and avoid an embarrassing moment by the side of the road with the local constabulary. Look at the V5 certificate to make sure it matches the owner’s name.
Ask for a service history and make sure that the cambelt has been changed at the correct interval if you’re buying an older car. If it doesn’t have a service history, pass, go for another car. Check the MOT certificates for any discrepancies in the mileage and make sure the car feels right for the mileage, in terms of wear and tear on the seats and steering wheel. Clocking is more difficult these days, but it still happens.
Then it’s down to you to do your own mechanical checks. If you’re not sure then take a friendly mechanic or, if you’re spending significant money, get an RAC Used Car Inspection for total peace of mind.
Get a full receipt, if you’re buying from a dealer get their terms and conditions and then hope for the best! If you’ve done your homework you won’t need luck, your used car will be one of the best investments you ever make.