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Tips for buying a second hand car – part 2

man checking car before buying


Last time on our blog we talked about some of the most important things you need to consider before handing over your cash for a used car. This is always important, but it’s especially vital when buying at the lower end of the market from a private dealer.

If you followed our tips for buying a second hand car from last time, you should be fairly sure that the vehicle you’re looking at is legal and safe. Now it’s time to turn her over, listen to the engine and take a test drive…

Fire her up!

You should have your model-specific checklist to hand, but before a test drive you need to do all of these with any car you view:

  • Starting from cold – A cold start is key to checking the engine for burning oil – if it’s warm when you arrive the seller may be hiding something so wait for it to cool down fully. Ask the seller to start the car up while you watch the exhaust for smoke: white is okay, but blue, grey or black are signs to turn around and head home!
  • Listen to the engine – Listen to the engine as it turns over. If you can hear any knock or clunks, or it seems laboured in any way, reject it. Unless you’re a mechanic and can be absolutely sure you can fix it, you could be facing a big bill.
  • Check the steering – turn the steering wheel to full lock in both directions. A grinding noise is normal, but a big clunk indicates the CV joint is on the way out. It may not be a big job so use it as a bargaining chip.
  • Clutch check – The clutch should engage low down. If it’s too high or you’re not sure, depress the clutch, engage third gear, start the car and try to pull away. If the car stalls the clutch is fine, but if it doesn’t it needs replacing.
  • Check the oil and head gasket – Pull the dipstick and see if the oil is dirty which might indicate the car hasn’t been cared for. Unscrew the big cap on top of the engine block and look at the cap. If it’s covered in a creamy gunk the head gasket is blown. Walk away.

Time for a test drive

You should be fairly confident now and ready for a test drive. The car should pull away nicely and feel stable and balanced on the road. If it pulls to one side when driving or under braking walk away – the same goes for any unusual clonks or rattles from the suspension… or anywhere else!

Be sure to drive on all kinds of roads and at different speeds to be absolutely sure – once around the block is not a test drive.

If the car has passed your tests and you decide to buy, pay with cash or banker draft and make sure that you get a receipt for the transaction. Don’t be afraid to haggle and use any little bumps or issues that the seller didn’t list in the advert to reach a deal. The most important thing to remember is that you’re in the position of power and there will always be another car, so if you have any misgivings walk away – always trust your gut!

We hope these articles help you in your search for a new (for you!) car – and if you’re taking it for a spin around Leeds, car parking doesn’t get better than here at Trafalgar Street, so feel free to leave it with us while you continue your errands on foot!