Buying a Used Car?

If you buy a used car privately, it’s a case of ‘Buyer Beware’. You don’t have the same legal protection as when buying from a dealer.  It’s up to you to ask the right questions and check the car thoroughly before you buy.

Documents

  • Can the seller show you the V5C registration document? You won’t be able to tax the car without it.
  • Is the seller the registered keeper shown on the V5C? If not, why are they selling it for someone else?
  • Does the registration document have a watermark?
  • Any spelling mistakes on the registration document?
  • Do the VIN (vehicle identification number), engine number and colour match the V5C?
  • Does the number plate match the V5C?
  • Has the VIN plate been tampered with?
  • Do VIN numbers etched on glass or lights match the VIN plate and V5C?
  • Any sign of scratches on glass to remove etched-in marks?
  • Does the fuel filler look as if it has been forced or replaced?
  • Does the car have a current MOT (if the car’s more than three years old)?

Mileage

  • Does the mileage, age and appearance of the car look consistent?
  • Any sign like worn screws that the instruments might have been tampered with? (Digital odometers can be tampered with electronically so clues like this won’t exist)
  • Check recorded mileage on service records, MOT ‘certificates’ and other documents.
  • Does it look consistent with current mileage/condition and increase steadily year on year?

Accident damage?

  • Any signs of inconsistent gaps between panels or mismatched colours that could be a sign of extensive repairs?
  • Is the paint finish even across the car?
  • Any traces of paint spray on handles, window seals or plastic mouldings?
  • Could the car’s colour have been changed? (Look under carpets and in other hidden areas in particular.)
  • Any unusual looking welding under the bonnet or in the boot?

Safety

  • Are the tyres in good condition and all of the specification and dimensions? Tyres with less than 3mm of tread will have to be replaced soon.
  • Is the spare wheel or tyre inflator/sealant kit in serviceable condition?
  • Are the jack and other tools present?
  • Do all the seatbelts operate correctly? Check there are no cuts or fraying that could affect the way they work.
  • If airbags are fitted, Check that warning lights operate as described in the handbook – normally they will come on with the ignition and then go out?
  • Do all lights and windscreen wipers/washers work correctly?

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