Buying a used car is an option that many people choose to take for various reasons as buying second-hand definitely has its advantages. For one, it can be a good a good starter option for new drivers looking to get their first car. It can also be a great way to save a lot of money compared to buying new.
However, there are things that you need to be wary of when buying a second-hand car, and this guide is going to outline the main things you need to know.
Set Your Expectations
Before you do anything, it’s important that you manage your expectations. While cheaper cars can be cheaper to buy, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are cheap to run. So, it’s key that before you look into buying a car or making any decisions that you set out your budget for the car and any additional costs.
Being realistic is important here as over-extending your budget can lead to problems later on. Once you have your purchase budget set, work out the estimated running costs for the car. As a starting point, it is estimated that on average someone will spend around £1,679.60 a year running their car.
These expenses will encompass things like petrol/diesel, car insurance, service and maintenance and car tax. There may also need to be repairs needed after purchase or down the line.
When you see the car for the first time, make sure it with critical eyes. There are a lot of useful online guides for what to be aware of buying a second-hand car but here are a few of the most important points.
Do you model research beforehand – not all cars are made equal, whether that’s new or second-hand. So, it doesn’t hurt to have an idea what the most reliable and affordable second-hand cars are before you go shopping.
Be cautious of car modifications – when you see the car for the first time, check for any obvious exterior modifications. Any modification to the car, no matter how standard, can have a huge impact on the insurance cost.
View the car in the daytime – when going to view any second-hand car it is important that you view the car in the daylight, outdoors. This is so you accurate see the cars size, model and colour as well as important things like damage and modifications that may be otherwise concealed in dim or dark lighting.
Always Check the Car’s History
There are three main things to look out for when checking a car’s history:
1. Check the details with the DVLA
The seller of the car should be able to provide you with the car’s registration number, MOT test number, mileage and make and model. Once you have this information, you can use the DVLA’s free online vehicle information checker to make sure that these details match the car.
2. Check the MOT History
Cars need to have an MOT to declare it road safe and up to environmental standards. This should be done on the three-year anniversary of its registration or the anniversary of its last MOT if it is over 3 years old. MOTs are a legal requirement incurring fines of up to £1,000 for not having one.
Thankfully, the Government have a free MOT history checker where you can find our if the car is under MOT and all of its past MOT dates and details – make sure to ask the seller about any gaps in the car’s MOT history.
3. Get A Private History Check
Private history checks cost around £20 and can tell you if:
- the car has been reported stolen
- the seller owes money on the car
- the car has been involved in a serious accident
- the car is showing the accurate mileage
- the car has previously been written off, repaired and put back on the road
Take the Car for A Test Drive
While you should always test drive any car that you’re thinking of buying, this is especially important when it comes to second-hand cars. While a second-hand car may look great on the outside, it may not be driving well at all.
Make sure that you are paying attention to how the car drives when you are test driving it, as you want to make sure that all the features are working as smoothly as expected. Make sure the size is good and that all the essentials (for example lights, indicators, windscreen wipers, brakes etc. are all functioning fully).
If you find that the car is performing well, sleep on it anyway, and don’t be afraid to ask for a second test drive, or a night time test drive if you feel like this will ease your mind.
As with any big decision in life, take the time you need to make sure you are 100% happy with any second-hand car before you decide to part with any money. If you follow these keys tips along with your own common sense and research, you should be well on the way to being the owner of a fantastic second-hand car.
Chris Smith is a writer and blogger. Over his career he has written for a number of publications, including The Guardian, The Telegraph, GoDaddy and The Huffington Post. He writes about sport and finance on his website Spend It Like Beckham.