Things to check when purchasing a used car
There are a lot of advantages to buying a used car. The outlay is less than if you were purchasing new. Also, you are not having to carry the costs of depreciation, which can be significant – the average car loses 60% of its value in the first three years of its life. But as with every major purchase, there can also be pitfalls to buying a used vehicle. Taking the time to run through some simple checks before you take the plunge can avoid a costly mistake. Read the following tips for when you are purchasing a used car:
Check your budget: many people just look at whether they can afford the initial price of the car that they want and then find themselves shocked by on-going running costs. If you have identified several models that you are interested in, consult some of the on-line sites such as Autocar for an estimate of fuel consumption and running costs. Some cars are well-known to need cam-belt or clutch replacements at a certain mileage and if the car that you are interested in is approaching that number, you may be setting yourself up for a major expense in addition to the cost of the vehicle.
What do you need from your car? Be realistic about the use that the car will be put to. It’s no good dreaming of a natty little sports coupe if you and your partner are on the point of starting a family! If safety is your primary concern, check the consumer magazine reports for the models that you are interested in to see which come out top. If you are likely to do a high annual mileage, economy and longevity are likely to be your top criteria when choosing a used car.
Check the paperwork: when you contact a seller, find out if the car has a full service history. Ask them for the registration number, tax disc details and MOT number, as well as the VIN (vehicle identification number) on the registration documents so that you can check with the DVLA online vehicle enquiry service. This will reveal any attempt to “clock” the mileage, whether the vehicle has been stolen or is an insurance write-off.
Checking over the car: unless you are an expert, it’s a good idea to ask an experienced mechanic or one from a motoring organisation to run a thorough inspection on the car you are looking to purchase. There are also some easy checks that you can do yourself. Look for signs of rust or repair along the seams of bodywork and the bottom of the doors. If the engine compartment is scrupulously clean, this may ring alarm bells – has it just been power washed to disguise signs of oil leaks? On the other hand, if the engine is covered in oil, beware! When you start the car up, look for a smoky exhaust and listen out for any rattles or knocks from the engine. (This is often more evident before the oil warms up). A test drive will give you a chance to feel whether brakes, suspension and steering feel worn, and if there is too much travel on the clutch. Driving uphill can reveal a tired and laboring engine.
Finally, if you are buying from a dealer you might expect the price to be a little higher, but if the car comes with a few months guarantee, it could be well worth paying that little bit extra.