Buy your next car with confidence
Ensure that all the key details are clearly established
Whether you plan to buy from a private seller or a dealership, always make sure that you have all of the correct information before moving forward with the sale. All of the following key details should be made available to you before you see the vehicle:
- Registration number
- Make and model
- Colour (You would be surprised how many people forget to ask!)
- MOT test number
- Tax details
You should also ask to see the V5 document and the service history of the vehicle. If for whatever reason any of these details are not clearly outlined, contact the seller and ask them directly. If they aren’t forthcoming, this could be a sign that they have something to hide which might dissuade you from buying the car.
Perform a thorough inspection of the vehicle
Even with the key details firmly established, it’s important that you see the car and inspect it for yourself before deciding to buy it. This will give you the opportunity to check that the reality matches the description that you have been given. You don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable about cars either, as there are a number of simple but important checks you can easily make:
- Check the exterior bodywork for any noticeable damage: chips, dents, patches of rust, etc. (Tip: stand at headlamp level and down the car from headlamp to tail lamp. This is the best way to see dents that may not be otherwise visible).
- Ensure that there are no cracks or chips in any of the windows or the windscreen.
- Inspect the tyres for rips and check their tread depth to ensure that it meets the legal minimum of 1.6mm.
- Ensure that all of the lights and electrics (windows, radio, air conditioning) are working correctly.
- Check the oil level and that the oil itself is clear and golden, if it isn’t this indicates that a service may be due soon.
- Start the engine and listen out for any unusual noises and check that the car doesn’t give off excessive exhaust fumes.
- Check the VIN number corresponds on the car and the V5 document. The VIN is a 17-digit alphanumeric code that uniquely identifies the car. There are 2 on the car – usually in the engine bay and on one of the door sills or door frame. These should be untampered with, must match each other and match the V5 document.
If your inspection reveals any problems, you can use this as a bargaining tool to reduce your offer, on the reasonable basis that you will need to spend extra money to address the car’s issues. Alternatively, if you think that the car is in a significantly worse state than you are prepared to accept, then you can simply choose not to buy it. Either way, it is vital that you make a thorough inspection before agreeing to the sale.
If you are buying of significant value, you could pay for an independent inspection. There are plenty available to choose from and could be the best money you spend to ensure you buy with confidence.
Ask to take the car for a test drive
This is a perfectly reasonable request to make of either a dealership or a private seller and if the car’s owner refuses then simply walk away. A test drive gives you the chance to do two things:
Firstly, you can make some additional checks that will demonstrate if the car has any serious problems with its engine, transmission, steering or brakes. . Additionally, it allows you to get a feel for the car itself and see if it suits your driving style. When performing a test drive, bear the following in mind:
- Test the brakes to see if they stop the car effectively and in a straight line.
- Check that steering can be completed smoothly, without shudders or any unusual noises.
- Test each of the gears to ensure that they transition smoothly. For an automatic car, the gear shift should be smooth, responsive and almost silent.
- When accelerating, check in the rear-view mirror for excessive exhaust fumes.
Consider a detailed online vehicle check
Unfortunately, it’s not unknown for disreputable sellers to scam buyers into purchasing a car that is stolen, salvaged from scrap or even has outstanding financing attached to it. Purchasing a car with this kind of history can cause the victim all kinds of legal and financial difficulties that are completely avoidable.
Even if everything checks out after you have inspected the vehicle yourself, test driven it and fully discussed its history with the seller, for complete peace of mind consider making use of an instant car history check tool. This tool will instantly provide you with the definitive answers to the following questions:
- Has the car been stolen?
- Has it been so badly damaged that the insurance company has declared it a write-off (cat A or B cars may only be sold for salvage)?
- Does the car have any outstanding loans or financing options attached to it? Whilst this is not a reason not to buy a car, you should ensure you get a settlement document to ensure that outstanding finance has been cleared.
- How many previous registered owners does it have?
- Has the car been marked as scrapped by the DVLA? (Such cars should not be available to buy or drive)
- Is the logbook correctly registered to the car?
- Is the car displaying the right mileage?
Simply by entering the car’s registration number, you can know with complete surety that the car you are planning to purchase is entirely above board. Armed with this knowledge, you can avoid any potential disasters and agree to buy the car, confident that nothing other than happy motoring awaits.