Top tips for buying a used car

Whilst buying a new car can be a very sensible option when looking for your next mode of transport it’s certainly not the most cost-effective.  Therefore the majority of us will look to buy a second-hand car from the abundance of trade and private sellers across the UK.  The trouble with buying a used car is we don’t always know its history and any hidden faults that aren’t visible on a short test drive.   From previous experience, I’ve had some great used cars and some very problematic cars and I’m sure many of you have been there.  Therefore I wanted to make my own checklist of important things to check before handing over my hard-earned cash.

car buying inspection list

In no particular order here are some I feel are most important.

Vehicle history and costs

  1. Get insurance quotes and check car tax costs before committing to a sale. Need help with insurance? has got the most affordable plans in place if you’re in the United States.
  2. Once you’ve found your ideal car, go to which lists common faults, things to check and owner reviews.
  3. Use the DVLA’s free online vehicle information checker to make sure what the seller tells you matches the DVLA’s records.
  4. Check the MOT history of a car on GOV.UK.  This is a free service.
  5. HPI clear?  Some cars might have outstanding finance on them and other hidden history so it’s always worth checking this before buying from a private seller. ( Most dealers will have checked their cars before putting on the forecourt but it’s important to ask them to confirm.
  6. Ensure you see the V5C vehicle registration document and check the registered keeper is the same as the person selling the car.
  7. Try and get a car with a 12 month MOT or as close to this as possible.
  8. Check the service history book and ensure the cam belt has been changed when specified. (normally around 70,000 miles.)
  9. Avoid cars with little or no service history. Personally I wouldn’t buy a car without a full service.
  10. If major repair work has been done to a vehicle make sure you see proof of professional work with receipts.  You can also sell your own damaged car online to contribute to your next purchase.

The test drive and vehicle checks

  1. Avoid viewing cars in the rain or at night when you can’t fully see the whole car and any little imperfections.
  2. Try and drive the car for at least 15 minutes on as many different road types.
  3. Check all the electrics are working as they should.
  4. When driving check for rattles and unusual sounds.
  5. Ensure the engine is cold before starting.  Starting a car when warm could hide starting problems.
  6. Check for signs of excessive smoke or dark smoke when starting and driving the car.
  7. Check steering for free play and wobble when driving.
  8. Braking stops the car in a straight line.
  9. Check the clutch and gears operate smoothly.
  10. Check around and underneath for rust.
  11. Check tyres are in good condition and have no uneven wear.
Image source –

Hopefully this is enough to ensure you buy something suitable and enjoyable for the years to come.  There are always additional checks worth trying but these would be my bare minimum before committing to a purchase.  For more hints and tips I’d recommend this great article –

I hope you have found this information useful. Happy shopping

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