Tips for Buying a Used Car

Written by Karen Bryan

buying used carIf you’re buying a used car, versus a brand new car, you need to be very careful that you do make a sound purchase. New cars suffer from very high loss in re-sale value (depreciation) in the first couple of years. This means that you could save a few thousand pounds buying a second hand car. That could be a pre-resigtered car which may have only done a few miles. Our current car, a Skoda Fabia, was bought from a Skoda dealer with 6 miles on the mileometer, when it was a couple of months old. In the past, we’ve bought several cars that were two years old,  but always from car dealers, with the intention of keeping the cars either until the were around ten years old or beyond economic repair.

Although buying from a private seller may save you even more money, you need to be very thorough and well prepared to avoid ending up with a dodgy car. You need to look out for things such as the car having been clocked (mileage lopped off), having an outstanding loan, having been put together after a crash or stolen.

We don’t know enough about cars to be able to judge if a car is in good mechanical order, to chance buying from a private seller. Doing a test drive will give you some indications of problems like smoothness of gear change, braking and acceleration effeciency, but I think there are other things that may not be obvious that could go wrong with the car soon after you buy it. If you have a friend/acquaintance who has technical motor knowledge, it would be a good idea to get them to come with you when you go to look at the car.

You need to check all the car’s paperwork carefully. A full service history may be reassuring, but I’d probably phone the garage at which the services had been done to check this out. I’d prefer to examine the car at the seller’s home, so I could check that’s the same address as the regsistered keeper’s address in the paperwork.

Maybe the sale is for a geniune reason, e.g. if the owner got a better deal on their new car by not doing a trade-in, or a family can’t afford to keep on a second car. I’d ask the reason for the sale and hope that I could judge if the seller was being honest.