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Tips for buying a second hand car

Car MOT paperwork

Buying a used car, especially at the lower end of the market, can often be a bit of a lottery. There are, however, a few things you can do to reduce the risk of picking up a lemon and give you a better chance of motoring on the cheap without hassle. We’re no experts on the subject, but over the years the team at Trafalgar have picked up a few important tips on buying a second hand car which we’ll share with you today.

Set a budget and be patient

If you’re buying on a budget you have to be willing to wait for the planets to align and present you with the best car for your money. Don’t be tempted to stretch your budget unless you can really afford it because it’s likely that any cheap car will require a little work to make it shipshape – so be patient!

Do your homework

There are loads of car advice websites out there where you can study the pros and cons of used cars. Honest JohnWhat Car? and Parkers are the best of the bunch, and offer impartial advice on the highlights and pitfalls of the used car market. Once you’ve narrowed down your options you can search with a little more focus.

Specific car checks

Okay, so you’ve found a lovely little motor that seems like a good buy, but before you go and take a look under the bonnet you need to:

Check the MOT history by putting the registration into – if there are lots of MOT failures or advisories on tyres, bushes and brakes you know the car has had a tough life and may not have been well cared for.

  • Do your own HPI check unless you’re buying from a reputable dealer
  • Get an insurance quote from your own provider or an online comparison site
  • Make a list of potential faults to check for or questions to ask based on the advice you get from the websites mentioned above – every car will have specific problem areas

And once you get to the vehicle you’ll need to do the following:

  • Run through your own specific checklist
  • Check for accident damage – are any of the panels misaligned or a different colour?
  • Is there any sign that the car has been re-sprayed around the trim areas or under the carpets?
  • Is the mileage consistent with the MOT records?
  • Do all the seatbelts work and are they in good condition?
  • Are the tyres in good condition? The spare too?
  • Is the V5C present and is the seller’s name and address on it?
  • Does the car have a long service history and are all the belt changes up to date?
  • Does the VIN match the V5C?

If you’re happy so far you’ll now need to start her up, check the electrics and go for a test drive, but we’ll leave that until next time…