Although a brand, shiny new car could be the envy of your neighbours, buying a used car can often be a cheaper and more practical alternative. The first rule of buying a second-hand car is to always do your homework, especially if you are finding prospective vehicles online.
There are a number of sites that can tell you if a car has been registered for scrap following an accident and others that can tell you if it has been registered as stolen; some offer both services. Even if this appears a difficult process, be patient, it is much more important to thoroughly research than risk high payments and even legal difficulties later on.
The next step is to meet the seller and check out the car in person. Arrange the meeting when the car will be visible in full daylight. You will not get a clear idea of the vehicle in a gloomy place, at night or if it is raining, and may miss serious flaws and evidence of damage.
If you can arrange it, take an expert with you. Most roadside assistance companies offer a vehicle checking service and some independent mechanics will happily accompany purchasers to examine a vehicle. Their expert eye will be able to see if any damage has been patched up or if any of the major parts are due a change or overhaul.
Ask the seller about the history of the vehicle and pay close attention for any gaps or periods that he or she seems to be avoiding. Check the log book and the identity of the seller to make sure that they are legally allowed to sell it.
If the vehicle is older than three years old, it must have a clear MOT history going back to its third anniversary. Again, pay attention to any gaps as time off the road may be an indication of an undisclosed accident or crash.
Ask about the vehicle’s insurance, especially if the vehicle is purported to be in working order and find out if it has a warranty. Many people sign up for extended warranties, but then forget their expiration date and the terms and conditions that govern the agreement.
Finally, when buying a used car bear in mind that old axiom, ‘If it looks too good to be true: it probably is!’ Expect to pay a fair price for a reasonable vehicle and hopefully you will find a like-minded vendor with whom you can make a deal.